The most surprising thing about eggs

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Today’s newsletter is made of eggs.

So is your car. So is your house. So is the computer or phone or iPad you’re reading this on.

They’re all made of eggs.

I can say that without fear of contradiction because of Title 21, Chapter I, Subchapter B, Part §160.100 of the US Code of Federal Regulations, which is entitled “Eggs,” and which reads in full:

“No regulation shall be promulgated fixing and establishing a reasonable definition and standard of identity for the food commonly known as eggs.”

Under the current guidelines, an egg plus a bunch of additives could still be called an "egg"—and so could a crumpled-up piece of paper filled with cigarette butts. At least in theory.

I know, it’s all kind of absurd. And it’s why Panera Bread petitioned the FDA to crack down on egg misnomers a while back. (Sorry about the minor pun; you should see the long list of bad jokes I edited out of today’s newsletter.)

For example, Panera suggested the FDA should declare that an egg combined with "additives, such as butter-type flavors, gums, and added color," could not be called an egg.

Instead, it would have to be called an "egg product," or an "egg patty."

Which sounds a little less appetizing—and which, not at all coincidentally, is what some of its competitors serve in their egg sandwiches.

Now, those “egg patties” may not contain crumpled-up paper, but I’m guessing Panera wouldn’t mind you imagining that, because it announced its FDA petition while touting the launch of its new breakfast sandwiches, which it said featured "100% real eggs."

With the FDA's definition as it is, fast-food breakfast places are free to "buy precooked, frozen egg patties to reheat onsite, or they cook their eggs from bulk liquid egg products," according to the Washington Post.

(McDonald's, apparently, is one of the exceptions, using "fresh-cracked eggs in its Egg McMuffins.")

Plus, some "eggs" also "frequently contain preservatives to extend shelf-life, colorants to approve appearance, and starches and gums to help the liquid flow evenly on hot pans."

Those are just details, however. Panera probably doesn't want you to get bogged down in the details.

Anyway, the chain’s efforts were for naught, at least in terms of legal effect. Its petition was originally filed in 2018, and as of yesterday, the Code of Federal Regulations remains unchanged.

But what I like about this story is that Panera almost certainly knew it had no chance of getting the FDA to act.

For one thing, the competitors who serve egg-plus-other-stuff sandwiches are pretty open about it. And nobody is saying there's a public health issue to worry about here.

But that would seem to be fine with Panera, since simply by filing the petition they started a debate that makes their menu look better and simultaneously made their competitors' seem suspect, or maybe even a little gross.

"When a consumer orders an 'egg,' they expect to get an egg," Sara Burnett, director of wellness and food policy at Panera, told The Washington Post, adding, "We hope the FDA seriously considers our petition. But even if they don't... we're happy with the conversation we've created."


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Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay. I first wrote about this Panera egg business on Inc.com, and I remembered it recently (and looked up whether the CFR had been changed) while traveling with my family and stopping, as we always do on the road, at Panera. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.