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Court Denies Smucker's PB&J Patent 388

Posted by Zonk
from the line-in-the-sand dept.
lbmouse writes "The AP is reporting that on Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rejected an effort by the Jelly & Jam maker to patent its process for making pocket peanut butter and jelly sandwiches." While the company was only trying to patent the "crimping process" used to create a specific type of mass market sandwich, they had also "...asked Albie's Foods of Gaylord, Mich., to stop producing ready-made PB&J sandwiches for a school district".
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Court Denies Smucker's PB&J Patent

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  • OMG! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Prophetic_Truth (822032) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:40PM (#12184106)
    There's only one way to celebrate...You know it..

    IT'S PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME! [ebaumsworld.com]
    • Re:OMG! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eexlebots (203658)
      ohh awesome ebaum, the site for ripping off other people's content and even editing out the creators/original watermarks and replacing it with a url for their shitty site!

      Hell it is still kinda
      amusing I guess

  • by Hulkster (722642) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:40PM (#12184110) Homepage
    Maybe I can sue anyone who tries to use the technique my Mom uses for making Hash Browns?!? [komar.org]

    For those that don't RTFA, Smucker actually allready had a patent from 1995, but this rejection "involved two additional patents that Smucker was seeking to expand its original patent by protecting its method." I.e. they still have the original patent for their method of making a P&J sandwich, but "the company's original patent is being re-examined by the patent office."

    Hulk SMASH Celiac Disease [komar.org]

    • by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:02AM (#12184265)
      Yes, you're right.

      One major point on the patent was that, when making a PBJ, the J seeps through the bread. To solve that problem, Smuckers put PB on BOTH pieces of bread.

      And patented that!

      They got a patent on putting PB on both bread slices instead of just one!

      And we wonder how the one-click-order got patented!
      • That's actually a good idea.

        Except, peanut products cause me to um... die. Now if they could just keep that from happening, that would be awesome!

      • So that's the trick: Make sure any prior art has already been eaten.
      • by Xtifr (1323)
        when making a PBJ, the J seeps through the bread. To solve that problem, Smuckers put PB on BOTH pieces of bread.

        Gee, when I was a kid, my mom taught me to put regular butter on the jam side for exactly that reason. If only we'd known it was such an "innovative" idea, I'd be the son of a millionaire right now! :)

        Or maybe it's the use of peanut butter instead of regular butter that makes it quite so new and innovative and inobvious? Yeah, substituting peanut butter for butter on a PBJ - nobody would *ev
    • by Grax (529699) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:35AM (#12184791) Homepage
      When peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are outlawed, only outlaws will have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
    • by srmalloy (263556) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:43AM (#12184835) Homepage
      For those that don't RTFA, Smucker actually allready had a patent from 1995, but this rejection "involved two additional patents that Smucker was seeking to expand its original patent by protecting its method." I.e. they still have the original patent for their method of making a P&J sandwich, but "the company's original patent is being re-examined by the patent office."

      Unless Smuckers came up with a really unique way of 'crimping the edges' to seal the sandwich, then I'd have to argue against it on the basis of prior art going back to a tool that I first saw back when I was a Boy Scout; it was two metal rods hinged together at one end with handles at the other, sort of like a nutcracker, but the arms were about two feet long. Near the hinge on each rod was a circular dished metal plate. You buttered two slices of bread, put one on one of the plates, added some filling (jam, meat, PB&J, etc), put the other slice on top, and closed the arms; this clamped the two plates together, cutting off the crust and sealing the 'sandwich' inside; you then stuck it into a fire to brown the bread, giving you a sort of pasty or fruit pie (depending on the filling. And this was back in the late '60s, so 'prior art' has been around for a while.

      • by srmalloy (263556) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @02:44AM (#12185192) Homepage
        Unless Smuckers came up with a really unique way of 'crimping the edges' to seal the sandwich, then I'd have to argue against it on the basis of prior art going back to a tool that I first saw back when I was a Boy Scout;

        From doing a search online, they're called 'pie irons', producing what are called 'hobo pies', and can be found from various dealers, including the Fire Pie Trail Store [firepies.com]; scroll down to the 'Round Pudgy Pie Iron'. It's moderately amusing that the Patent Office said the "crimped edges are similar to a ravioli or pie crust", though, given that one of the sites selling the pie irons describes their action as "forcing the bread to a round shape, crimping the bread and forming a nice seal around the edge of your sandwich or pie (like ravioli)" -- apparently, not only is there prior art to the actual method of making the sandwiches, but there's prior art to describing the method...

      • That sounds like a mechanical/manual version of one of these [breville.co.uk]. You've been able to buy things like that here in the UK for at least 20 years. Same idea - switch that on and it heats up, make a sandwhich, put it in, close the toaster and it cuts and crimps it while it cooks it. I recommend buttering the *outside* of the bread, it makes it brown nicely.
  • Damn.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by shbazjinkens (776313) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:41PM (#12184111)
    There goes my chances of patenting the BLT.
    • You can't patent the BLT, but you might be able to patent a particular way of making a BLT like bacon on both sides with the lettuce and tomato between. If Smuckers can patent the method of putting peanut butter on both halves to keep the jelly from seeping through the bread . . . A technique I've used for years.
  • Oh man (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There goes my patent on grilled cheese.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:42PM (#12184120)
    In a post 9/11 world, police arrest peanut butter and jelly.
  • Jesus! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Seminal (698722) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:43PM (#12184127) Journal
    asked Albie's Foods of Gaylord, Mich., to stop producing ready-made PB&J sandwiches for a school district

    I am ready to join the protesters who want to destroy corporate america. The ones who go to G7 meetings and economic forums and fight the nasty police. If some asshole wants to deprive me of the right to a PB&J sandwich because they have a patent, motherfuck them. The corporations have too much power. Too many lobbyists. And the laws are getting rediculous.

    • Re:Jesus! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pete6677 (681676)
      Actually this case was an example of the system working the way it's supposed to. Some company got a patent that seemed legitimate at first, they tried to enforce it in a blatantly abusive way, and the courts stopped them. I'll agree that corporations have too much power in certain situations, but this is not one of them.
      • Re:Jesus! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mOdQuArK! (87332) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:40AM (#12184816)
        Actually this case was an example of the system working the way it's supposed to.

        If the system was working the way it was supposed to, this patent & 90% of the others would be laughed out of the Patent Office front door.

        The fact that the _backup_ system (the U.S. Court of Appeals) managed to work in THIS ONE CASE, hardly means that the system is working the way it's supposed to.

        • Re:Jesus! (Score:4, Informative)

          by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:56AM (#12184882)
          If the system was working the way it was supposed to, this patent & 90% of the others would be laughed out of the Patent Office front door.

          But it was. The USPTO cited ravioli as prior art. Smucker's appealed the denial of their application, and that's how it got into court.
  • US Army... (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Hobo (783784) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:43PM (#12184131)
    I once saw a show on the television that said the US army already crimps PB&J sandwiches as a type of combat ration... they last for a while, apparently!
    • Re:US Army... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by plopez (54068) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:07AM (#12184662) Journal
      when my dad was in the army in wwII they knew when they had a long day ahead of them whenever the cooks handed out peanut butter sandwichs in the morning. Lightweight, kept well in the heat, easy to eat on the run and calorie dense.
      • Re:US Army... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Lumpy (12016)
        not simply calorie dense, but jammed with protien and Carbs as well as vitamins and other goodies (espically if they use grape jelly or a berry based jelly). the PB&J sandwich is almost the perfect meal.

        the absolute best portable meal is a PB&J on a flour tortilla. you can roll them up tight and fit 4 of them in a ziplock space where one sandwich fits. plus they can be crushed more without damage. Excellent portable meals for hiking, climbing and hang gliding or other aspects needing portable, dur
  • As an aussie (Score:3, Informative)

    by G-funk (22712) <josh@gfunk007.com> on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:43PM (#12184134) Homepage Journal
    I have to ask, what in the bloody hell is a "pocket" peanut butter and jam sandiwch?
    • pocket bread? Beats the hell out of me, I'm aussie too :)
    • "Uncrustables" (Score:4, Informative)

      by jangobongo (812593) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:50PM (#12184182)
      Smuckers has a picture of them here [smuckers.com].

      Apparently they are found in the frozen foods aisle of the grocery store as the the page says, "All you do is thaw and serve."
      • Re:"Uncrustables" (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Caseyscrib (728790) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:03AM (#12184276)
        Those things aren't very healthy. They are high in sodium (260mg), as most prepackaged foods are. You're much better off making a PBJ from scratch. The regular jar of Smuckers Jelly [smuckers.com] has 0mg sodium in it.

        And FYI, we should be getting about 500-2400mg of sodium a day, but the average American consumes something like 3000-6000mg per day, because we eat so much prepackaged food.

        • Not to mention the name would be more appropriate for a brand of underwear!
        • Those things aren't very healthy. They are high in sodium (260mg), as most prepackaged foods are. You're much better off making a PBJ from scratch. The regular jar of Smuckers Jelly has 0mg sodium in it.

          Yes yes..Evil company is bad sticking sodium into this food so they can kill our children...I love how you point out that Jelly has 0 mg of sodium and yet these things have 260 mg... Gee..I wonder why..

          Let me go make my own..Ok..I'll start with 2 slices of healthy wheat bread. Add a serving of peanut

    • I have to ask, what in the bloody hell is a "pocket" peanut butter and jam sandiwch?

      Nonobvious, I guess.
    • Re:As an aussie (Score:3, Informative)

      by NitsujTPU (19263)
      Smuckers sells PB&J sandwiches that are little round circles. The circles look like they are made by a process involving 2 pieces of bread thusly, but I really don't know the process:

      1) Take 2 slices of bread
      2) Dollop PB&J in the center
      3) Put a ring on top, and one on bottom, smash the rings together crushing the dough into a crimped solid bit of dough.


      Heres a product link [smuckers.com]
    • It seems like a really stupid patent, until you try those sandwiches. They are GOOD. For someone who doesn't like to spend a lot of time cooking (or in the case of the PBJ, getting the components together), and also as a guy who never got over the whole crusts thing (hate them, cut them off, always), this thing is a godsend. Laugh all you like, but try one first.
      • Re:As a lazy-ass (Score:3, Informative)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)
        It seems like a really stupid patent, until you try those sandwiches. They are GOOD. For someone who doesn't like to spend a lot of time cooking (or in the case of the PBJ, getting the components together), and also as a guy who never got over the whole crusts thing (hate them, cut them off, always), this thing is a godsend. Laugh all you like, but try one first.

        Earth to lazy-ass, come in lazy-ass.

        These things taste like ass, lazy, pre-processed ass

        It takes about 90 seconds to put together a real PBJ sa
    • We responded, now explain vegimite...

      especially vegimite sandwiches...

    • I imagine it is similar in texture to the mucous of the marsupial pouches for which Australia is so well known.
  • Trouble (Score:5, Funny)

    by soniCron88 (870042) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:44PM (#12184138) Homepage
    And you'd really get into trouble if you tried to make PB&J's with $2 bills...
  • Once again the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has struck a blow for our rights online. We can email each other peanut butter and jelly sanwiches without fear of lawsuits.
    • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:05AM (#12184289)
      Once again the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has struck a blow for our rights online. We can email each other peanut butter and jelly sanwiches without fear of lawsuits.

      This just goes to show how liberal activist judges are legislating from the bench. How would a real judge- like Judge Scalia- [ucomics.com] handle this? He knows the Constitution is a "dead document", and would have invoked the original intent of the framers.

      Peanut butter didn't even exist until 1890. The original framers of the Constitution lived in the 1790s and would have been completely befuddled by the creamy tasty goodness of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Ergo, it is nonobvious, patentable, and the court was unjustified in rejecting Smuckers' efforts to patent the device.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:46PM (#12184152)
    What's for lunch?
  • by A Boy and His Blob (772370) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:47PM (#12184158)
    I don't see what the big interest with this case is. I think the only reason it is getting as much publicity as it is, is because the general public actually understands the patent. The prior art is clear: ravioli, pierogies, pirags, etc.

    There are software patents being passed that are 100 times more ridiculous than this, yet you don't hear much about it outside of Slashdot or some short blurb in the tech section of the NYT.

    Most of these software patents are just as absurd as patenting a method of making a PB&J sandwich, often worse. A "System and method for creating, processing and managing educational content within and between schools," [uspto.gov] I mean come on, or a "method and system for processing input from a command line interface." [uspto.gov]

    I wish the general public would realize the ramifications of software patents like these. It is essentially re-patenting the wheel.
    • It will get noticed when some company that exists only to snatch up patents and then litigate over them (like Immersion) manages to get ahold of a patent for something like the hyperlink or the for-loop or something and tries to grind the whole U.S. economy to a halt.

      In other words, no one is going to fix until we get the USPTO-induced equivalent of flying airplanes into buildings.

      After all, Congress is too busy roadblocking each other over judicial nominees or debating back and forth to decide if Social
    • It is essentially re-patenting the wheel.

      Already been done. [bbc.co.uk]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:49PM (#12184168)
    ...it has to be fraud.
  • ob old commercial (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daeley (126313) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:50PM (#12184179) Homepage
    With a name like Smucker's, it has to be, uh, patent pending.
    • by John Seminal (698722) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:59PM (#12184241) Journal
      With a name like Smucker's, it has to be, uh, patent pending.

      ROFL. If I had mod points, I would mod that insightful. LOL.

      Seriously, we need to do something about patent law. It is getting to be a joke. I remember when anyone could work on their car. I bet in 5-10 years there will be systems that GM and Ford and Toyota will patent so only they can fix it, and charge much more money. People joke about patents to blow jobs. Wait til you get a sunshine job, and the bill.

      When did patent law become a way to make a monopoly?

      • by soft_guy (534437) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:23AM (#12184406)
        When did patent law become a way to make a monopoly?

        That was always the point. When you file a patent, you share your idea in exchange for a monopoly for a limited time. The problem is that the patent office is being bombarded by applications so they just figure "grant everything and let the courts sort it out". The problem with that is that it allows deep pocket companies to bully anyone they want by filing for ridiculous patents.

      • by mamladm (867366) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:49AM (#12184860) Homepage
        ... the problem is ENFORCEMENT.

        We don't need to do anything about patent law. What we need desperately is to do something about proper enforcement of the existing rules.

        Patent law forbids granting patents on inventions for which there is prior art. Yet there is a flood of patents for which there is prior art which is against existing patent law.

        Patent law forbids granting patents on inventions which are obvious deductions from prior art. Yet there is a flood of patents which do not meet the criteria of non-obviousness, again against existing patent law.

        Patent law also forbids granting patents on applications which are not described in enough detail to allow persons skilled in the art to carry out the invention (ie build the apparatus). Yet there is a flood of fuzzy patents which were not specified in the required detail, yet again against existing patent law.

        The one primeval problem there is with the patent system today is that enforcement of existing legislation is anywhere from too lax to non-existant. That is the issue we ought to acknowledge and do something about.

        The fact that we, the public, do not acknowledge this to be the root cause, that we usually talk nonsense when it comes to patent issues, that we consequently do not lobby for better enforcement, this only works into the hands of those who abuse the system, who take advantage of the lack of enforcement of patent law.
  • by b17bmbr (608864) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:53PM (#12184204)
    somebody will patent blow jobs, then my wife will have alegal excuse.
  • by John Seminal (698722) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:54PM (#12184210) Journal
    Smucker's 2-ounce peanut butter and jelly pockets come in two flavors -- strawberry and grape -- and are enclosed without a crust using a crimping method that the Orrville, Ohio, company says is one of a kind and should be protected from duplication by federal law.

    One of a kind way to make PB&J sandwiches. I hate to tell these asshats, I was making PB and Strawberry sandwiches for ages. When I was younger I used to cut the edge of the bread off, but today I need the extra fiber.

    Maybe I should patent that I whipe my ass with the paper going upwards and not downwards. Who knows, maybe I am the only one who knows how to whipe an ass.

    Patent examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office disagreed, saying the crimped edges are similar to making ravioli or a pie crust.

    Fuck, here comes Chef Boy-R-D and his patent lawyers. Someone tell that 90 year old woman she is no longer lawfully allowed to make her family dinner.

    Smucker asked Albie's Foods of Gaylord, Mich., to stop producing ready-made PB&J sandwiches for a school district, but the food manufacturer went to a federal judge in 2001 and then the patent office to invalidate Smucker's original patent. Albie's was "caught off guard, literally, because they didn't think you could patent a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," said the company's lawyer, Kevin Heinl.

    Can my girlfriend patent the blow job? She is damn good. She swirls her tounge, head down, but the eyes looking up like a puppy dog. Like "oh dear daddy, I love you". Just like that. Nobody else does it like her. I'd like to get a nickle everytime your girlfriend gives you a blow job.

    The patent office received 376,810 patent applications last year. It usually takes about two-and-a-half years for a patent to be processed. About 65 percent of all patents submitted are approved, Quinn said.

    There were over 200,000 patents approved last year? Sweet Jesus. I really should get around to a but whipe patent.

    "Very few patents are what one would call a 'pioneer patent,' meaning that the inventor discovered something very, very new that has never been discovered before," she said. "Most patents are given to changes to existing technology."

    I'll dip the toilet paper in water. That's it.

    "We bought a unique idea for making an everyday item more convenient (and) made a significant investment in the idea and in developing the innovative manufacturing technology that makes Uncrustables so easy to use," the company said.

    I wonder how this ruling will effect the Pop Tart corporation?

    Smucker's stock price fell 30 cents on Friday to close at $49.67 on the New York Stock Exchange.

    I can hear Gordon Gekko yelling "Bud FOX, Damn you!". I wish we knew how this PB&J thing really played out.

  • by goon america (536413) on Friday April 08, 2005 @11:57PM (#12184229) Homepage Journal
    This is the real news here -- that the patent office rejected a patent application.

    My question is this: if they accepted swinging on a swing [uspto.gov] as worthy of a US patent, why did the USPTO decide to deny Smuckers this one?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The US Court of Appeals invalidated the patent. The stupid motherfuckers at the patent office actually granted the thing.

      It's starting to look like patents are drifting well past their original purpose. Overhaul the system, or ditch the suckers completely.
      • This is hilarious how it describes traditional swing operation as old an busted then implies that only this patent can boost humanity out of this tragedy.

        "These methods of swinging on a swing, although of considerable interest to some people, can lose their appeal with age and experience. A new method of swinging on a swing would therefore represent an advance of great significance and value."

        Still a neat idea I'd like to see in action.
  • by UpLateDrinkingCoffee (605179) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:03AM (#12184274)
    Sounds like the innovation is a second layer of peanut butter to encase the jam and also the crimping. Here, you be the judge: Abstract

    A method of making a crustless sandwich from two slices of bread with outer crusts, the method comprising: placing a first slice of bread on a platen; forming a mass of a first food spread onto the central portion of the first slice of bread in a position spaced inwardly from a marginal area where the mass is formed with an inner lower layer with an outer rim extending upwardly from the lower layer to define a closed pocket or receptacle recess in the mass; placing a second food spread in the receptacle recess; closing the receptacle recess with a layer of the first food spread generally coextensive with the mass and supported on the outer rim of the mass to encapsulate the second food spread into a center composite food layer; placing a second slice of bread over the first slice to cover the center composite food layer; cutting the bread slices in unison in a cut pattern to remove the crusts of the slices; and, pressing the two bread slices together by force through the slices against a pressure surface on the platen to crimp the slices into a crustless sandwich.

    • there is prior art... the Breville Sandwich Toaster. [breville.co.uk] Its plates "cut, crimp and seal" the edges of the sandwich when you close the top and bottom together... it doesn't have to be turned on to do this either, just closing the two halves does this. And to round it off, Smuckers, is most probably in breach of a Breville patent...
    • No one told me, but I discovered the PB&J on both sides on my own. Whenever I would make them to take to work a few years ago, I noticed the jelly would soak in and make the bread nasty. Well, one day I thought "hey, add PB to the other side and prevent it." Guess what, it worked. Pretty obvious if you ask me, because I know I was not the first monkey in this world to think of it. So I would be violating a patent each time I told this to someone. Or worse, by telling other people I could be infrin
      • You don't infringe upon the patent when you tell other people about this method to prepare a sandwich.

        You infringe upon the patent when you use this method to create your sandwich without having obtained a license. The idea of patent law is explicitly to make inventions public knowledge. If you would not have figured out how to prepare the sandwich, you could have searched the USPTO database for an appropriate method.

        You seem to confuse patent law with the DMCA, where you're not allowed to inform about ho
  • by SteelV (839704) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:05AM (#12184293)
    Patent comes in for a new type of PB&J.

    Worker: Hey! I could have thought of that... hell, the wife makes one every Tuesday... DENIED.

    Patent comes in for a new "technology." A Web site will have a box labeled Username and one labeled Password, and a Submit button that logs on the user to the Web sites system.

    Worker: That sounds complex about computer web site things. Must be some new technology. APPROVED.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Actually the patents are broken down into groups based on technology (chemical, electrical, mechanical, etc..) and then further broken down into subgroups of those. Examiners who would be working on food (PB&J) would never get patents for computers (username/password).

      Although, I doubt mundane facts like that will stop you from ranting about that which you know little to nothing about.
  • What in the hell are they doing trying to patent crimped bread?!

    There are so few things about food and cooking that hasn't been done before that I'm willing to believe it has pretty much ALL been done before. This is pretty ridiculous.

    On the other hand, they might be making peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches on crimped bread, I'm making jelly and peanutbutter sandwiches on TOAST! Now *that* has to be patentable because I've never heard of it before and it's nothing like a pie crust or ravioli. (Though m
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 09, 2005 @12:23AM (#12184409)
    How lazy are we as a society, when we can't even spend 1 minute to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Thats what scares me more then this Smuckers patent.
    • "How lazy are we as a society, when we can't even spend 1 minute to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Thats what scares me more then this Smuckers patent."

      This might be funny if not for the fact that one of the BFDs about this 'innovation' is that it keeps the jelly from soaking through the bread.
  • whacking the USPTO upside the head.
  • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @01:20AM (#12184724)
    Damn, I'm going to get Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba [lemurlove.com] on the phone and hire him to patent hundreds of cooking techniques. Soon, I will own exclusive rights to ALL FOOD! I will win in Kitchen Stadium!!!

    Somebody pass me a foie gras and salmon roe pocket sandwich, I'm hungry. Today's theme ingredient is Intellectual Property!

  • by martijn-s (456925) on Saturday April 09, 2005 @02:59AM (#12185284)
    As a European, I'm amazed that this kind of candy bread is actually spread, pre-manufactured, at schools!

    It's not like we don't know the PB&J over here in Holland but come on, a school should primarily serve a nice fresh cheese sandwich or something else without so much sugar.

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