After the cookie claim crumbles

Learning from readers’ reactions is one of the satisfying aspects of my job.

This past week, I was flooded with emails and calls from readers about two columns, one about the suspicious calorie-count of the Red Velvet Cafe chocolate cookies, the other about the sad lack of hand washing by people as they leave public restrooms.

I dare not show my face at the Red Velvet Cafe after outing Chef Aneesha Tolani’s claim that her cookies were a minuscule 27 calories, instead of the 157 calories an independent analysis showed.

But a woman who works near the Fashion Show Mall, one of three sites of the Red Velvet Cafe, checked it out after my column Monday and took a photo of a new sign posted there.

“Disclaimer: Substitutions, variation in fresh ingredients and variation in fresh preparation will surely increase or decrease our stated nutritional values, including calorie count. All of our stated nutritional values are approximate. Any values obtained by outside laboratory testing may be different than stated values.”

This gal said it best: “Are you kidding me? Are they seriously trying to say “fresh preparation” will change a food’s calorie count by 130 calories? I am furious!”

She shared how she and her boss at the Fashion Show decided to diet by eating lunch there and sometimes taking dinner home “and noshing on those damn cookies.”

“Based on the calorie counts given by the Café, we estimated we were consuming less than 1,500 calories a day. I’m sure you can imagine our disappointment when not only did we not lose weight but we actually gained weight. … I even went to my doctor and asked if there was something wrong with me because I was eating very few calories and still gaining weight. To make matters worse, it’s not as if the Café is an inexpensive place to eat. I was easily dropping $25 a day for lunch (including a drink and cookies).”

Since mid-May, Tolani has told me the cookies were being tested, but the results were never ready.

The original results from 2008 when she opened her store were never provided to me either.

Now she says she is working to “restore trust and maintain the trust and confidence of our customers.”

Based on the stories shared with me, Tolani faces an uphill battle. Especially since Food Hacker Todd Wilbur has already paid for an analysis and posted it on his blog.

I breathlessly await another promised analysis.

As for that Michigan State University study that said one out of 10 people left public restrooms without washing their hands, several Las Vegas men said that at casinos, it’s worse than that. More than half of older men leave without washing and among younger men, the number is even more disgusting, one man reported.

Walter Linkfield is a daily visitor to a health club and noticed that about one out of two men don’t wash their hands, “Used to tell my wife my unofficial results and she thought I was nuts.”

I was glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

Two women said they didn’t always wash their hands because they had problems that made touching water painful, something I never knew. One said her hands are allergic to water. “So, I hope people don’t judge others for not washing hands. There may be a valid reason.”

That sounded unbelievable, but various web sites said it is rare but possible to be allergic to water. I learned something new.

A friend, Carolyn Hayes Uber, whose immune system is compromised from an illness wrote: “This is a seriously important issue to me and not finding soap in a public restroom is a health hazard. Thanks for reminding folks, despite how few will likely follow through.”

Cookies and hand washing. Not exactly trivial issues after all.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at or call her at (702) 383-0275.