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The Kil Report
The Kil Report: Alternative Medicine,Scientific Method, Evil Skeptic, Scams, Fraud, Hoaxes, Critical Thinking, Enforma
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Miracle Thaw - The Bogus Miracle

By David Glück
Posted on: 4/5/2002

Kil is rather cool towards the not-so-miraculous Miracle Thaw.


Today, as I was shopping at the mall with my son, Zachary, we stopped to watch a demonstration of “Miracle Thaw” in front of a store that sells pots and pans, food preparation gadgets, and other kitchen items. A man wearing a store apron placed an ice cube on the “Miracle Thaw” tray and then set another ice cube on a cookie sheet. The ice cube placed on the “Miracle Thaw” tray melted quickly while the ice cube placed on the cookie sheet lingered — proof of the “Miracle Thaw’s” ability to thaw a frozen steak faster than thawing it on your counter top. (“Much faster,” the man proclaimed.)

“That product is bogus,” I offered. “So is the test.”

“How so?” the man asked, surprised.

“All that test proves is that an ice cube will melt faster on a thick, black piece of metal than on a thin, gray cookie sheet. I suppose that it would thaw meat faster than a cookie sheet, too, but that’s not a big deal. Most people have pans at home that would thaw meat just as fast as your little ‘miracle tray.’”

“I doubt that,” he offered. “And anyway, what do you mean by bogus? It does what it says it does, so it isn’t bogus.”

“You’re selling it as something special. It isn’t special at all. As I said, most people could thaw meat just as fast using a pan they already own. Plus, it calls itself ’Miracle Thaw,’ and there is nothing miraculous about it. It’s just a good conductor of ambient temperatures. Just about any thick pan would be a good conductor.”

“No way,” he smirked.

“Sure it would. And it wouldn’t cost anything. Just take a pan and throw a frozen steak on it for a while. Why anyone would want to do that escapes me, by the way. But, they could do it —”

“It wouldn’t be as fast. This is made for defrosting.”

“Okay, we are standing in front of a store that sells pots and pans. So why not put this to a test? Have any Magnalight?”

“I know Magnalight wouldn’t work!” he laughed.

“How about some Calphelon then?”

“We don’t sell Calphelon.”

“Okay, then, you choose.”

He ran into the store and brought back what appeared to be an aluminum frying pan. It was reasonably thick but light gray; lighter than Magnalight would have been and much lighter than, say, cast iron. Still, I wasn’t worried. He put an ice cube on the “Miracle Thaw” tray and another into the frying pan. The ice began to melt.

“See?” He pointed to the puddle forming around the ice in the “Miracle Thaw” tray.

“See what?”

“See how much faster the ice is thawing in my tray?”

“Well, it seems only a little faster. The ice in the frying pan is melting much faster than it was on the cookie sheet. Almost as fast as your ‘miracle tray’. And the frying pan isn’t black, or even dark.”

“Ah ha!” he said triumphantly. “So it isn’t melting as fast and you admit it!”

“There is only a little ice left on the tray and in the pan. If the tray is melting the ice faster, it’s not by much.”

Before the ice was completely melted in either pan he grabbed a towel and wiped both pans, ending the test…

“So, you have to admit it was close,” I said. “There was only a bit of ice left in either pan.”

“That doesn’t mean this product is bogus,” he offered. “It does thaw meat.”

“Okay, look. Say I have two small blocks of wood. I catch a fly and get it to stay on one of the blocks long enough for me to whack the two blocks together, killing the fly. Can I now market two small blocks of wood as a ‘Miracle Fly Killer?’”

“Sure you can.”

“Really? And you don’t think that’s playing fast and loose with the truth?” I asked.

“Not really. Not as long as it can do what you say it can do.”

There were a few people gathered around enjoying this conversation. Also, a few of the store’s employees were hanging out the door.

“Well, personally, I would send all those packages of ‘Miracle Thaw’ back to the manufacturer with a note saying we don’t deal in bogus products. I couldn’t be comfortable with your idea of what constitutes a worthy product,” I told him.

“I’m fine with this. It does what it says it does.”

I shrugged…

Zachary and I went on. On our way out, we passed the same store again. We noticed that the salesman with whom I had had the melting debate was gone, but at his table was another employee who was reading the literature that comes with the “Miracle Thaw.” He spotted me and asked if the “Miracle Thaw” had been proven to not work. “Not exactly,” I told him. “What has been proven is that it is unnecessary. All it does is conduct ambient heat which most any pan will do. It’s not a miracle,” I said. “Showing how fast an ice cube melts on it compared to a cookie sheet is, as I demonstrated, not an honest test. I see the frying pan is gone… I wonder why?”

What I didn’t think of at the time of this debate (I was shooting from the hip) was that there are problems with thawing out meat at room temperature. The chance of bacteria build-up is much higher at room temperatures. If the “Miracle Thaw” tray took longer than the times advertised on the box (and apparently it does) then this danger is of some concern. Enough of a concern for the FTC to do a special consumer alert. Here is an excerpt from that alert:
At issue is the proper storage of perishable foods such as meat, poultry, and fish. Harmful bacteria can grow on foods held at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F a danger zone that’s above refrigeration and below cooking or holding temperatures and this in turn can lead to food-borne illness. Use of some products like food thawing trays and thermo-electric coolers may involve leaving food at these unsafe temperatures for significant amounts of time.

Advertisements for thawing trays claim that frozen food can be thawed rapidly at room temperature. Some ads claim the trays are made of a special ‘superconductive’ metal that speeds the natural thawing process. Yet most are simple aluminum trays, and the same accelerated thawing effect can be achieved with any metal pan. In fact, thawing times for these trays often are exaggerated in advertisements.

Because thawing trays require that food be thawed at room temperature, and many items will have greatly extended thawing times of well over two hours, there’s some risk that harmful bacteria may develop. Generally, food safety experts agree that to avoid that risk, frozen food should be thawed in the refrigerator, in a microwave oven, or in cold water, but never at room temperature.
For the complete text of this alert go to:
www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/foodalrt.htm
Also, The FTC brought suit against Premier Products Inc. Here is a summary of the order they obtained:
The consent order with Premier Products, Inc., T.V. Products, Inc., and T.V.P. Corporation, all of Florham Park, New Jersey, as well as company officers Michael Sander and Issie Kroll, settles charges that they made false and unsubstantiated safety and effectiveness claims for the ‘Miracle Thaw’ Teflon-coated aluminum tray, which purportedly thaws frozen food quickly and safely. The consent order prohibits the respondents from misrepresenting how long it takes any food storage or preparation product to defrost, thaw or prepare food items, the process by which it does so, and the existence or results of any study or research. The order also bars the respondents from misrepresenting the risk of bacteria buildup on foods when consumers use such a product, and requires them to have substantiation for claims about the safety or efficacy of food storage or preparation products, and to include a disclosure about the potential risk of harmful bacteria buildup when making claims about the effectiveness or usefulness of ‘Miracle Thaw’ or substantially similar products.

www.ftc.gov/opa/1997/02/petapp13.htm
For the complete decision and order:
www.ftc.gov/os/1997/02/c3720cmp.htm
I was not able to find a web address for “Miracle Thaw” or the company that manufactures it, “Premier Products, Inc.” I found a few companies that sell the product. I also found the Health Frontiers site if you’re interested in further information.

Now, I realize that the claims made by the manufacturers of “Miracle Thaw” and similar products have been debunked already. There has been a judgment against them. This would be old news if not for the fact that it is currently being sold in the middle of a popular mall complete with a demonstration of its miraculous ability to thaw an ice cube faster than a cookie sheet can. I’m not even sure that a death, due to food poisoning linked to the use of “Miracle Thaw,” would stop the sale of this product. I bet they are well-covered by fine print…



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