Oh What A Bad Feeling – Toyota

The public trust is not easily obtained nor should it be taken lightly. Toyota has been behind on this story at every step. It’s not going away.

toyota-logo.jpgOh Toyota. You are this close to becoming a business school teaching lesson. You are this close to becoming Bon Vivant Vichyssoise! Never heard of Bon Vivant? Read on.

Back in the early seventies there was a food company named Bon Vivant. They made high end canned soups under their own name and for others. I’ll let the NY Times pick up the story:

On an early July day in 1971 when it was too hot to cook, a couple in Westchester County, N.Y., sat down to a meal of Bon Vivant vichyssoise, a soup often served chilled (and in this case, straight from the can). The soup tasted funny, so they didn’t finish it; within hours he was dead and she was paralyzed from botulism poisoning. F.D.A. investigators found five other cans of vichyssoise from the same batch of 6,444 that were also tainted with botulism, and spot checks of other products raised questions about the company’s processing practices, so the agency shut down the plant and told the company to recall all its soups.

Bon Vivant tried to fight the recall, calling it an overreaction to a highly isolated problem, but it soon became obvious that few consumers would touch anything with Bon Vivant on the label. And because it was known that the company manufactured store brands as well as its own, people started to be suspicious of every kind of canned soup on the shelf. Bon Vivant filed for bankruptcy within a month.

Instead of getting ahead of the story Bon Vivant pushed back. They put their profits and priorities before their customer’s. We tend not to like that from those who feed us and from whom we expect scrupulous attention to safety.

Nearly seventy years of soup making and Bon Vivant was gone within a month! They became the poster child for what not to do in a crisis.

Fast forward to 1982. Someone injected cyanide into Tylenol capsules after they were already on the store shelf. What did Johnson and Johnson do? They took responsibility and bore the immediate cost though the sabotage happened out of their reach.

Although Johnson & Johnson knew they were not responsible for the tampering of the product, they assumed responsibility by ensuring public safety first and recalled all of their capsules from the market. In fact, in February of 1986, when a woman was reported dead from cyanide poisoning in Tylenol capsules, Johnson & Johnson permanently removed all of the capsules from the market.

You don’t think twice about taking Tylenol today, do you?

I am a Toyota guy. My first new car was a 1970 Toyota Corona. I or my family have had one for most of the time since then. Helaine and Stef both drive Toyotas today.

I have no animus toward Toyota. But seriously, it seems they are following the lead of Bon Vivant and not Johnson and Johnson.

The public trust is not easily obtained nor should it be taken lightly. Toyota has been behind on this story at every step. It’s not going away.

I just watched CNN’s Jessica Yellin play a phone conversation with Toyota about her own Prius. Damning.

I know GM and Ford are licking their chops hoping for Toyota’s downfall. I’m not sure that would be as good for all of us as it is for them. I am not rooting for Toyota’s failure. Their prior attention to quality has forced the US auto industry to step-it-up over the last few decades.

Right now more than Toyota’s cars are speeding down the road out-of-control.

I’m Sweet on Splenda

One of my problems with dieting has to do with the lack of sweetness. Sugar is the mortal enemy of any dieter – and sugar is our major source of sweet. That much is obvious.

In my pre-dietetic days I put sugar in my coffee, and while at Dunkin’ Donuts, let them do it for me. Letting the counter person at Dunkin’ Donuts dole out the sugar is defacto cheating, because they put more sugar than any conscientious person would ever put in his own drink.

Over time I have started drinking coffee without sugar. It’s not the same. In fact, it’s pretty awful (which by itself probably establishes my coffee addiction).

I had been introduced to artificial sweeteners but had never used them. Sure I had tried a few times, but the results were always the same. Either it wasn’t good tasting to begin with, or was good tasting until an awful aftertaste kicked in.

For years my mom has said&#185, “It tastes exactly the same,” for any artificially sweetened product she happened to be serving. She meant well, but no one was buying that. There is Coke and Diet Coke because Diet Coke sucks compared to Coke… my mother not withstanding.

This vicious cycle has gone on until recently when I discovered Splenda. Splenda is “made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar,” though the company that makes the artificial sweetener Equal filed a false advertising lawsuit claiming Splenda, isn’t really made from sugar, as its packaging claims.

Thanks. I’m thrilled. You can actually read the chemistry within in the photo of the package in the upper left corner.

Splenda comes from McNeil Nutritionals, a unit of Johnson & Johnson. So, we’ve got a company without the word food in its name, actually owned by a drug company, ‘sweet’ talking me!

It doesn’t make any difference. I really like this stuff.

From a taste standpoint it has none of the downside of the more traditional artificial sweeteners. From a diet standpoint, it isn’t sugar. It’s very good – not exactly sugar, but good.

Coffee with Splenda has a somewhat smoother taste than sugared coffee, more reminiscent of hot chocolate.

Now that I’m using Splenda I’m surprised to find it’s not universally available. In fact, it might become more scarce with time. At a local diner last night, the waitress told us they didn’t have it because it moved too slowly. That was in direct contradiction with a friend in town who says it’s twice as expensive as the other artificials and if he left it on the tables it would walk out of the restaurant in customer’s pockets. At his place it is only available on request.

On Friday a news story came out saying increased use of Splenda is taxing the factory (chemical plant?) where it’s made. Planned increases in use might have to be shelved, at least temporarily.

At least for me I can now scratch this sweetness itch without the guilt, and gut, that sugar brings. But, for the time being, I will carry some packets in my car… or maybe stuffed in my wallet.

&#185 – As I get older I know I’m going to end up following in my parent’s footsteps. Still, it’s a shame to watch them substitute ‘produced stuff’ for the real, tasty food they used to eat – back when we were all dumb and happy.