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Price Baloney: The San Francisco Cheat

It's a wonderful world, isn't it? I mean, we can put people on the moon, send probes into interplanetary space, microwave popcorn and watch "Casablanca" whenever we want. Technology can do so many things, I was thinking in the supermarket aisle the other day. Why, we even can manufacture special low-fat food! Rice-A-Roni, for instance, offers low-fat versions of its dishes at the same price of its fattier fare. What a steal!

Unfortunately, the steal's real, and it's on us. Rice-A-Phony's secret to attaining low-fat food is two-fold: manipulating cooking instructions and package size. The first tactic is innocuous if dopey: they slap a bright "low-fat" sticker on their box, then tell you to use 1/2 tablespoon rather than 2 tablespoons of butter. They could just put those instructions on the regular box like their competitors do, but hey, no big harm done.

The second tactic of the ricemongers is not so nice. It turns out that they get their recipes down to low-fat levels by cutting down the serving size. With the same number of servings per package as regular Rice-A-Phony, the total package weight goes down considerably, from 6.9 ounces to 5.9 ounces. Yet they sell for the same price, $1.29. There's something sticky going on here, and it's not the rice.

There's even reason to believe that low-fat Rice-Ba-Loney is *less* healthy for you than its regular cousin. According to the Nutrition Information boxes, the low-fat dish contains 5 calories of fat per ounce, while the regular dish contains 4 calories of fat per ounce!

These rice-pirates have taken to heart the phrase "Less is More." They've found yet another way to drain our stomachs while fattening their wallets. I guess they must think we're either too stupid or too lazy to notice their profiteering scam.

Well, are we that stupid? Are we that lazy? I sure hope not. If you've got the nerve, the verve and a smidgen of time, why not call these purloiners of pilaf to task? It couldn't be easier, my friend. You could e-mail Rice-A-Roni headquarters and give them what for. Or perhaps a toll-free call to 1-800-421-2444 would do the trick. If enough of us promise to go on the ultimate low-fat diet and skip their products entirely, perhaps the RiceaLoonies will change their ways.