Fastener Technology Puzzle

If you buy a loaf of bread, it comes in a plastic bag closed with either a metal twist-tie or a little plastic tab. Either of these may be re-used to close the bag again after you have used some of the bread.

If you buy a bunch of carrots, they generally come in a plastic bag that is closed with a little piece of tape. The tape is generally stronger than the material of the bag, making it really hard to remove the tape without ripping the bag open. And even if you do get the tape undone, it can’t be re-used.

Why do they do that? I’m not any more likely to use the entire bag of carrots at once than I am to use a whole loaf of bread at once, so it’s not that the carrots are less likely to need a bag closure.


  1. #1 Aaron Bergman
    October 17, 2009

    You don’t need to re-seal a bag of carrots because there’s no advantage in doing so. With bread, on the other hand, it can help keep the bread from going stale.

  2. #2 Odysseus
    October 17, 2009

    Carrots aren’t meant to be stored in the bag, but rather in a box in the fridge or something. Bread on the other hand should stay fresh in its bag of highly specialized nanotech-plastic.

  3. #3 Art
    October 17, 2009

    Carrots don’t need to be resealed. They last longer if they don’t stay in plastic. Condensation or other moisture buildup causes them to rot. They last longer if they can breath.

    Any bag that needs to be resealed generally gets a wooden clothes pin. I have used the same four clothes pins in my kitchen for twenty years.

  4. #4 Robert
    October 17, 2009

    They should put bread in cellophane bags instead of plastic because it’s eco-friendly, but people won’t buy bread in cellophane because when they squeeze the bag it doesn’t feel soft enough.

  5. #5 george.w
    October 17, 2009

    Another vote for wooden clothespins. We have a cup of them on the countertop and use them for all sorts of tasks. A miracle technology, the clothespin.

  6. #6 Janne
    October 17, 2009

    Markup on bread, meet markup on carrots. The bread manufacturer can easily absorb the extra cost of zip ties; the produce wholesaler can not.

    Part of the reason: carrots are generic, while bread is less so. You tend to want to buy “your” brand of bread, but you don’t care who grew your carrots or who distributed them.

  7. #7 Mike Kozlowski
    October 17, 2009

    Bagged carrots? What the hell kind of farmer’s market bags their carrots? You’re not shopping at one of those… SUPERMARKETS… are you?

  8. #8 Thony C.
    October 18, 2009

    People who buy bread in plastic bags only have themselves to blame!

  9. #9 quantense
    October 18, 2009

    Actually I buy carrots without bag at all. Bread with, but just a packet without any tie. I can use this packet later anyway. And I believe it’s cleaner than carrot’ bag, if there’s one.

  10. #10 Katherine
    October 18, 2009

    Yet celery keeps best if it is in a plastic bag, yet it is sold without one!

  11. #11 thm
    October 19, 2009

    Perhaps they figure that carrot-buyers are also bread-buyers, and bread-buyers can easily accumulate a modest collection of re-usable bag-closers left over from the bags of bread that they’ve finished, and so those carrot-buyers who wish to keep their partially consumed bags of carrots sealed (which, as the previous comments suggest, is not all carrot-buyers) can just use an old bread bag closure.

    The best place to store bread, by the way, is the freezer; see Harold McGee on how bread goes stale.

  12. #12 Micah S
    October 19, 2009

    Said carrots would be just fine sitting in a cool dry place of your convenience, out in the open, very much unlike your bread.

  13. #13 rpsms
    October 20, 2009

    Because a bunch of carrots has more mass than a loaf of bread, it has a better chance of attaining the momentum required to overcome the holding strength of the fastener during normal transport and handling?

  14. #14 Bert Chadick
    October 20, 2009

    An obscure fact: The little hard plastic tab with the key shaped slot was invented by one of the long term financial supporter of the paleo-racist John Birch Society. For decades I never bought bread sealed by those tabs because it helped financed people who wanted to put me in prison. I’m sure the inventor is dead by now and the JBS might as well be.

    Wire twists for me.

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