True Grits

Few things are more annoying than a government regulation that consumes time and energy but seems to serve no useful purpose. In that spirit, BUSINESS WEEK is launching Wit's End, a new feature that shines a light on some of the peskier regs out there that make you scratch your head, exclaim in horror--or, depending on your sense of humor, laugh in disbelief.

Our first in this series is drawn from a Food & Drug Administration/Agriculture Dept. regulation dating back to 1977 that dictates what food companies can label and sell as grits. This particular piece of oversight was uncovered by Vice-President Al Gore's office as part of his effort to streamline government. It is scheduled for demise--but that still leaves plenty of other grist for this mill.

Grits, corn grits, hominy grits is the food prepared by so grinding and sifting clean, white corn, with removal of corn bran and germ, that on a moisture-free basis, its crude fiber content is not more than 1.2% and its fat content is not more than 2.25% and when tested by the method described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, not less than 95% passes through a #10 sieve, but not more than 20% through a #25 sieve.

Paragraph (b)(2): Attach bottom pan to a #25 sieve. Fit the #10 sieve into the #25 sieve. Pour 100 grams of sample into the #10 sieve, attach cover and hold assembly in a slightly inclined position. Shake the sieves by striking the sides against one hand with an upward stroke, at the rate of about 150 times per minute. Turn the sieve about one-sixth of a revolution, each time in the same direction, after each 25 strokes....The percent of sample passing through a #10 sieve shall be determined by subtracting from 100% the percent remaining in the #10 sieve. The percent of material in the pan shall be considered as the percent passing through the #25 sieve. (21 Code of Federal Regulation, Section 137.230)