The Blues for Some Boo-Boos

If you’ve ever used an adhesive bandage — commonly referred to as a “band-aid,” because of a leading brand of such bandages — you know that they don’t always stay on for very long. Get them wet, the adhesive tends to weaken and the band-aid may fall off. Put one on a joint — your knees or fingers or whatever — and the bending motion often loosens the band-aid, and again, it may fall off. There are probably other examples as well, but you get the idea. Band-aids can fall off when you don’t want them to.

And in some cases — particularly in the foodservice industry — that can lead to awful results. Take, for example, an incident in Albany, New York, during the summer of 2011. A woman named Melanie Dallas did the very usual summer activity of going to get some ice cream. What she got, though, was something vile among her toppings: someone else’s band-aid. As the Albany Times-Union recounts, she discovered, between bites of “vanilla ice cream studded with peanut butter cups and swirls of thick fudge,” a surprise she didn’t want: “a standard beige-colored adhesive strip that was still curled in the shape of a cylinder, as if it had slid off someone’s injured finger.” And yes, she was grossed out beyond belief; Davis told the paper that this was her “worst nightmare;” not only was she previously a big fan of ice cream, but she also suffered from anxiety prior to the event, and this clearly worsened that affliction.

Band-aids in food… it’s something best avoided. But again, these things fall off pretty easily. Why aren’t there a lot more stories of traumatized ice-cream-eating customers?

Because of the bandages pictured below. 

By and large, regular consumers buy bandages that are discreet — we try not to show off our injuries, and instead opt for band-aids that match our skin color or for ones that are clear. But we’re also not overly concerned with having our bandages fall into someone else’s meal. If you’re in the foodservice industry, the opposite is true. If a customer notices you have a bandaid on your finger, no big deal (especially if you’re wearing gloves over them, as you probably should). But if the bandage falls off your finger and into the customer’s ice cream, you better notice it before serving it to her.

Going blue fixes that. Foods come in hues across the rainbow — greens, yellows, reds, browns, and more — but very rarely will you find blue foods (absent a lot of food dye). As School Health explains, the bandages above take advantage of the dearth of blue on our plates: “The highly identifiable blue color stands out in all different foods.” Hopefully, someone — be it the cook, server, or customer — will notice the blue invader before the diner takes his or her first bite of the tainted food. 

For factory settings, there’s a second level of protection offered. A worker may not notice his or her bandaid falling into a box of, say, cereal, and once that box is sealed, no one else will notice until the end consumer goes to make breakfast. But the manufacturing and packaging industry has a solution for that, too — one these bandaids help effectuate. As School Health further explains, food packagers “routine[ly] scan for dangerous metal debris such as screws or knife tips that can accidentally fall into food during processing,” using highly sensitive metal detectors. These bandages have a thin metal stripe behind the wound pad that, as the box says, is detectable by one of those scanners. 

And yes, these blue, metallic bandages are the standard across the commercial foodservice sector. Ms. Davis, our woman from Albany who found a bandaid in her ice cream, was the victim of an exception (note, above, that she described the bandage as “beige-colored”), but it was an exception that shouldn’t have happened. The company that made the ice cream told the Times-Union that their “manufacturing practices include a bandage policy that requires employees wear blue bandages that are also detectable by a metal detector used at the end of the production line. If an employee comes to work with a bandage, they are trained to take it off and replace it with a blue bandage.” Had the store followed the same rule, perhaps Davis would have been saved some unnecessary trauma.

Bonus fact: One of the few blue-like-the-bandaid foods out there is the blue raspberry slushie, a frozen drink that tastes somewhat like raspberries but is, well, blue. (Here’s a picture of one sold at McDonald’s.) There are no such things as blue raspberries, though. The flavor comes from a slushie brand called ICEE, which created the flavor and its unique hue in the 1970s. But why not go with red, like raspberries normally are? In 2016, ICEE’s vice president of marketing, Susan Woods, explained the rationale to Bon Appetit: “Raspberry tasted great as a frozen beverage. However, we wanted something that was a distinctly different color than our flagship flavor, cherry. We came up with blue raspberry.”

From the Archives: The Eyes Have It: Did you know you can see your own blood cells and not require a bandaid to do it? You can! But you’ll need something blue. (Like, the sky.)