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US News & World Report has a story by Melanie Warner, author of "Pandora's Lunchbox," in which she writes about the issue of transparency, using as her subject the Papa John's pizza chain. Papa John's, she says, makes a big point of the fact that its mission is "to build a better pizza," which means using "fresh, never frozen original dough, all-natural sauce, veggies sliced fresh daily and 100 percent real beef and pork."

Except that this may not be the fact.

"Those 'better ingredients': Good luck finding out what they are. Unlike the packaged products you buy at the supermarket, restaurant food isn't required to list ingredients. Many fast food chains, like McDonald's, Taco Bell and Subway, do voluntarily provide them, in part for indemnity against lawsuits and in part because they realize some of their customers actually want to know what they're eating.

"But not Papa John's. They've decided it's better to keep their ingredients a secret. You won't find any information about them on either the company's website or in stores."

Warner continues:

"By not disclosing what's in its food, Papa John's is revealing that it doesn't think too much of its customers. It is either asking customers for blind trust or assuming people are too stupid and complacent to ask questions. When we do ask questions, they refuse to answer. At least that was my experience, both when I approached Papa John's as a journalist and a customer. This strikes me as a foolish approach in an age when American eaters are demanding more transparency when it comes to food, not less. For some reason, Papa John's has failed to realize that when you hoist your entire brand up on the idea of high-quality food, you'd better be able to back it up."

Papa John's is not the only chain to be guilty of this approach. Warner writes that Olive Garden, Applebee's, Cheesecake Factory, Chili's and TGIF's "are some of the other sit-down chains that also won't tell you what's in their food."

You can read the whole piece here, but here is the essence of her argument:

"Given how dramatically food production has changed in the last half century, Americans deserve to know what they're eating. That's the impetus behind the growing public support for the labeling of GMOs. Even those who are OK with eating genetically modified corn or soy still would like to know about it."

Companies that believe they can avoid being transparent, that they know better than their customers, are guilty of a certain kind of arrogance. Their eyes, in fact, are closed to reality.
KC's View: