Why does the peanut bag say, "Remove shell before consuming nutmeats"?

Dear Cecil:

I'm enclosing a bag of salted-in-the-shell peanuts because I think it makes a statement, although I'm not sure by whom or about what. Please note the warning on the back of the bag:

CAUTION: Remove shell before consuming nutmeats

I'm speechless. Is this some kind of joke? Is this an indication of what peanut distributors think of the mentality of the people who consume their product? Is it a reflection of the paranoia corporate America has been pushed into by the lawsuit-happy American public? Or have we really gotten to the point where it is now necessary to tell the Teeming Millions how to eat peanuts?

Cecil replies:

Cecil replies:

All of the above, Jake. I talked to the people responsible for the warning, Ace Pecan Company of suburban Chicago, and while they were guarded on the phone, it’s clear they’re dealing with some real losers out there.

They tell of one character who ate an entire eight-ounce package of sunflower seeds, shells and all, and suffered an obstructed colon as a result. (An obstructed colon, which can be caused by too much roughage, is basically the world’s worst case of constipation. Fecal matter backs up inside of you, developing the consistency of a brick.) The victim, dismissing the possibility that she may have brought this on herself, demanded compensation from Ace, but gave up after the company pointed to the warning that appears on all its products with shells, sunflower seeds and peanuts included. Admittedly it looks silly, but you can understand the problem.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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