Sometime this summer, I took a train down to Brighton with a few girlfriends to spend the day shopping, eating and walking on the famous pier. Brighton is a nice distance from London – far enough to know that you’ve been away, but close enough to get there and back in a day and have enough time for a wander round and a meal. Also, Brighton is on the coast and nothing cheers me up more than the sight and sound of the sea, even if the waves are , and the "beach" is in fact a series of shingle terraces. We had a great day and had a lovely meal at a place called Food for Friends, which I stll intend to blog about. One day.
Anyhoooo… While walking on the famous pier I thought I’d better get Nick a little gift, and what better to buy in Brighton than the famous Brighton rock? Rock is kind of like a stripey candy cane in the US, but it’s sold in straight sticks, not curved canes. The name of the seaside town where it is made/sold is embedded in the centre of the tubular stick in such a way that the letters can be read all the way down the stick, even once it is half-eaten. Apparently making it is quite a process and the lettering has to be created by hand from long strips of toffee before being rolled in the white base of the candy and then rolled in the coloured toffee to make the external stripes. Phew! There’s also something kind of fascinating about the embeded letters that stay constant no matter how much of the stick you eat. Anyway, it’s the classic gift from Brighton and so I bought Nick a stick.
As we are constantly reminded in the press and on TV, people are increasingly reading the labels of everything they buy. I myself am an inveterate reader of labels – no aspartame, no E-numbers, no tartrazine please etc etc etc. But sometimes you have a momentary lapse of reason. Sometimes you get something home and think yikes – how did that get in here?? Well, that’s pretty much the story of my stick of rock. I got it home and gave it to Nick & then idly read the ingretient list. Yes, I know, what was I expecting? Quinoa and organic honey?? Even so, I wasn’t quite prepared for the list that confronted me: [The italics, btw, are all my own – clearly no company is insane enough to put THAT much info on a label…]
E102 (Tartrazine – a yellow synthetic azo dye)
E122 (Carmoisine – a red synthetic azo dye)
E124 (Ponceau – a red synthetic coal tar or azo dye)
E129 (Allura red – a red synthetic coal tar or azo dye)
E132 (Indigotine – a blue synthetic coal tar dye)
E142 (Green S – a green synthetic coal tar dye)
E171 (Titanium dioxide – white colour extracted from the mineral ilmenite, a heavy metallic oxide mineral)
E133 (Brilliant Blue – a blue synthetic coal tar dye)
In case you were wondering, an azo dye is "one of an extensive range of synthetic organic dye made from aniline, by first converting it with sodium nitrite to a diazonium chloride salt which is then reacted with other aromatic amines, phenols and sulphonic acids. The well known indicator methyl-orange is formed by making the diazo salt of sulphanilic acid, and reacting the product with dimethylaniline" (thanks, Wikipedia). I couldn’t find a specific definition for coal tar dyes, but here’s what one site had to say about them: "The specific components of coal tar used in hair dyes — aromatic amines — have been shown to mutate DNA, and to cause cancer in animals". And that was discussing coal tar dyes in permanent hair colouring. Here, we cut out the middle man (your scalp) and go straight for ingestion by putting them in a sweet!!
And to think people buy this stuff for their kids… Sorry, Nick!!! Next time I’ll bring you back some sesame crunch