Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A pint of Sudan 1 and a packet of worcester-flavoured crisps, please

Coming soon to an American news program near you is a food scare which originated in Britain. Unlike the country's sorry history with foot and mouth disease and mad cow, it seems that the latest scare is relatively well contained and will likely cause no casualties among man or beast. The scare arose when it was realised that a red food colouring contained a banned carcinogenic substance, Sudan 1 (with a name like that, it's gotta be bad), and that said colouring had been used in a surprisingly wide range of products, which are now being recalled.

Now if blogging is worth anything, it's surely the right to proclaim vindication of one's own cranky positions in the face of any event, and so yes, that's where we're headed. The trouble first become apparent when it was realised that the additive had been used to make Worcester sauce, which in turn had been used to make Worcester sauce flavoured crisps. [Don't worry, your bottle of Lea and Perrins sauce is safe]. At which point we maintain that this disaster has been looming once the range of crisps broadened since our younger days from the choice of two: cheese and onion or salt and vinegar.

Nothwithstanding the Irish pride in the cheese and onion flavour given its invention in the country, we were salt and vinegar people, but this particular choice was increasingly beside the point as we gazed with the disdain of the expatriate traditionalist at the ever expanding range of flavours -- prawn cocktail, barbeque, and the American import of sour cream and onion. So in the quest for new flavours of crisp, you have the slippery slope that led to the manufacturing process for Worcester flavour, and the realisation that the additive had been used in many other processed foods as well. The same slippery slope that had a pit-stop for "essence of Guinness" but we'll return to that abomination on another day.

In fact, the lists of affected products (here and here) is a fascinating insight into the chain of production that lies behind what you see on the shelves and in the freezers in a typical British supermarket, as well as into the evolution of food tastes from the old days of Bovril. It took a bit of study from the BOBW team to pick the strangest food item, but we give the award to:

Pot Noodle: Hot Dog & Ketchup Flavour.

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