The Simple Things: Soap. Ice. Orange Juice.

userpic=foxy🎶 Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. Soap. 🎶

Sorry. Just trying to sing about 8 bars.

Shall I go out on that joke? No, I’ll do a blog post first. That’ll help. But not much.

Seriously (and with apologies to the Smothers Brothers and Stan Freberg, whose material I just stole), I’d like to share some articles and commentary on some simple things in the news: Soap, Ice, and Orange Juice.

  • Bar Soap. You probably don’t think much about soap. I guarantee you use it every day, but have you pondered about the form it comes in, or what is in it? Probably not, but others do. For example, have you ever wondered which is healthier to use: bar soap or liquid soap? Bar soap is more convenient, but sales are going down, and the soap leaves that wet surface. Bar soap does indeed tend to let bacteria idle on its surface, but that’s not necessarily going to be a problem. In 1988, the Dial corporation subsidized a study [PDF] in which they purposely drowned bar soap in illness-generating ick like E. coli at levels 70 times higher than what would be found with typical household use. After washing with the infected bars, a test group of 16 hand-washers had no detectable levels of the germs on their hands. No one has gotten sick from bar soap, and commercial bar soap is required to have antimicrobal ingredients (even if not explicitly antibacterial).  I’ll also note that most artisan soaps (think Lush and such) are bars, not liquids.
  • Antibacterial Soaps. Most of the soap we use on our hands these days is antibacterial soap (think Dial). Many have railed against this, arguing that use of such soaps creates more resistant bacteria (and here’s an interesting digressive thought that went through my head: do anti-vaxxers use antibacterial soap, which can also harm children? If so, why do they like viruses over microbes?). However, that’s going to change. Within a year, antibacterial soaps as you know them are disappearing from the market. The US Food and Drug Administration just released a new, exhaustive report and ruling that there’s actually no good evidence they perform any better than plain old soap and water when it comes to preventing illness or the spread of bacteria and viruses. Further, the agency is banning companies from using 19 common “antibacterial” chemicals — such as triclosan and triclocarban — in products going forward. (You can see the full list of ingredients here.) Manufacturers have a year to reformulate products or remove ones with these chemicals from the market.
  • Ice. You (at least for most of my readership) probably think little of ice. You use it every day: In iced tea, in iced coffee, in your soda, in your drinks, in your cooler. You exist in air conditioned comfort, in your car, in your room. You want things cold, not lukewarm.  An interesting article opines that the desire for ice is uniquely American. Only in America are you served cold water with ice, do you find iced drinks everywhere, find ice buckets in your hotel room and machines with free ice down the hall. In Europe and other countries, ice is less ubiquitous. Things are served at room temperature — tap water, etc. It’s something I just never thought about it — but I’m American. [And here’s another digressive question: Is the desire for ice not only an American thing, but a white privilege thing? Do cultures of people of color have the same desire for ice, or is the desire for “ice cold stuff” a manifestation of privilege?]
  • Orange Juice. If you’re old enough to remember the 1970s (and weren’t stoned at the time), you likely remember Anita Bryant selling Florida Orange Juice. You probably haven’t thought a lot about orange juice since then, and you’re not alone. Sales of orange juice is dropping — and sales of frozen orange juice concentrate from Florida (think those cylinders of Minute Maid in the freezer section) are dropping significantly. They are dropping so much so that the frozen concentrated orange juice market has seemingly disappeared. Certainly the futures contracts are worthless; people have moved over to futures in those other breakfast staples: pork bellies (bacon) and coffee. Americans drank less orange juice in 2015 than in any year since Nielsen began collecting data in 2002, as more exotic beverages like tropical smoothies and energy drinks take market share and fewer Americans sit down for breakfast. The number of futures contracts held by traders has dropped by more than two-thirds from a 1997 high of 48,921, to 15,410 contracts last week. There were 71 players in the futures market as of last week, compared with 168 in 2004. As for Florida, it is already on track for the smallest harvest in 52 years. So what do you have with breakfast?