Sunday, July 26, 2015

Trouble Ahead for the Food Industry

In the last few of years I have cursed a number of hand held can openers. I have thrown several away and gone out an purchased new ones, and still I have trouble opening cans.  It doesn't matter whether you spend $20 for ones with the big plastic handles, or search out the cheaper, all metal variety, which are becoming harder and harder to find.  I have even tried the kind that cuts the entire top off the can below the rim.  They leave a very sharp edge, and I find that rather dangerous.  No matter how many can openers I have, I always seem to have to work my way through them to find one that will open the can.  I have heard that other people were having trouble too.

I have discovered, through trial and error, that perhaps I should not have thrown away some of the openers I disposed of. They might have opened a different can.  I now know I have one that will open any yellow labeled no-name product, but nothing else.  I suspect others will open some other types of cans, but will skip and sputter along the top of anything else.

Earlier this week I decided to make a bean salad consisting of kidney beans, chick peas and green beans, along with some green pepper and onions.  I set the three cans on the counter and proceeded to open them.  The first one opened easily, and without any trouble at all.  I couldn't help thinking I was lucky to have grabbed the right can opener for a change. The second can also opened, but it took a lot more effort on my part, to turn the key and cut the lid.  The by the time I got to the third can, I couldn't even dent the lid with that can opener, and had to try another one.  The second one moved about an eighth of an inch every time I turned the key a full turn. I would have tried another one, but it seemed to be stuck on the can so I just kept going.  It took a long time but least it wasn't skipping.  There is nothing worse than going all the way around the can and finding that the lid is still attached in more than one place, but depressed so that none of the opener blades can reach the metal to cut it.

I began to wonder if some of these products were canned in China or someplace so I read the labels.  Each and every one of them said they were produced in Canada, but they were all different brands and processed at different canning facilities.  That was a revelation to me.  The problem is not the openers, as I had always thought, but that the canning companies are each using their own can with apparently no standard rim size set by the industry.

This problem of getting a can open is fairly new, in the scheme of things.  We didn't use to have this problem.  I remember we could all open any can with whatever opener was available.

Standard can sizes have been around in the United States since the early1870's and I have no idea if the Americans are having the same kinds of problems as many of us here in Canada seem to be.  Perhaps the lids are being re-designed to have a shorter and thinner rim at the top. Maybe it even has something to do with metric sizes.  There is likely no universal standards for the can opener manufactures, and now it seems there is also no standards for the cans either. It's pure luck if you pick up the right opener for the right can the first time. If you fail, pick up another one, made by a different manufacturer, and try again.  It's not the can openers, it's the cans.

One would think, that our country would require a standard can, with a standard rim, that could be easily opened by young and old alike.  I'm getting too old to fight with cans.  Maybe that will end up being good for my health as I'll be forced to eat fresh food, or go back to doing my own canning.  Maybe all the other baby boomers will feel the same way.  I'm sure other age groups are becoming frustrated too. Canned food could end up sitting on store shelves until the expiry date just because we are tired of fighting to get it opened.  Food processors had better get their act in gear or they could find themselves out of business. We, the people, have that kind of power.

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