There's No Sudan 1 In My Dinner

Friday 18/2/2005

Back to noshblog site (click here)

Diary and Notes

Another bloody food scare, thousands of tonnes of pre prepared meals, sauces and other assorted noshables thrown in the bin, as though there were so much food on the planet that it was less valuable than dirt. This time it's Sudan 1, a food dye that has been shown to cause cancer (in high doses) in rats. The actual doses required for this are quite large (LD50 tests came to about 250mg/kg body weight) and there is no evidence that it is in any way harmful to humans, it is however banned from use in food, as a precautionary measure.

So how much actual Sudan 1 was in the food that was thrown away? I imagine probably a few microgrammes per dish. The dye was used to colour chilli powder which was then used to make Worcestershire sauce which was then used as a flavouring in the ready meals. I imagine the levels of dye in the chilli were quite small to start with, not much chilli is used in Worcestershire sauce anyway and very little sauce would have been used in the food. Even if the use of the flavouring at each stage of the production were massively high, lets say 5% by mass (so 5% of the Worcestershire sauce is chilli, 5% of the ready meal is sauce) this means that in the final ready meal there is only 0.25% as much Sudan 1 in the final meal as there was in the chilli powder. The real levels will probably be much less than 1% at each stage of production and you begin to see that the amount of dye in each meal is so small as to be completely irrelevant. But panic ensues and the Daily Mail has another front page about how we're all going to die.

The scare does point out two important points however, firstly the level of integration in our processed food network. A single source of chilli powder, sold to a single company to make a single product ends up contaminating over 350 supermarket products in every supermarket in Britain and secondly, do you know what you are eating when you buy a ready meal?

Some poeple have commented that I use a bit of MSG in my Chinese food and I am happy to do this. At least if there's MSG in my dinner I know it's there because I put it there. What's in your dinner? The Co-op have begun running adverts claiming to be cutting down additives in their products (the ones with the irritating singing sheep) and have removed MSG, tartrazine and perhaps GM products (though this is not actually possible and is only true by the legal definition of GM free, which is in no way GM free at all). But if you check the ingredients of their food, apart from MSG missing they are still packed with things you would never add yourself if you were cooking dinner at home. Every supermarket meal is also stuffed with sugar salt and saturated fat.

Exception: Low fat/sugar/salt foods. If it says low fat it will have twice as much sugar and salt as normal, if it says low sugar it will have either masses of fat and salt or if it's a sweet product, some very odd chemicals, derived from either saccharine or dextro-rotatory sugars both of which are believed to be carcinogenic and if it's low salt I don't even dare imagine what they're putting in instead to get you to eat it.

I know that most people will just carry on eating this stuff on a daily basis, slowly poisoning their own bodies and those of their children (the food people give to their children in this country is usually so bad it would be considered cruelty if farmers fed it to their pigs). Happily digesting what they think are smiley potato faces and turkey nibbles, when really they're as far from a potato or a turkey as is possible to get. I normally get angry about this stuff but I can't any more. It makes me sad. It makes me sad that we have entered the brave new world of Aldous Huxley and are now only only one small step from Soylent Green. I know there's nothing I can do to prevent the juggernaut of filth, but I wont be crushed by it myself. I will carry on cooking and eating my own food, prepared by me and knowing what ingredients are there. I don't mind on odd occasions having to eat this stuff, but to do it on a daily basis is madness and even if I may be mad too, my madness is one that wont see me dead from heart failure by 50 or bloated, overweight and riddled with diabetes before I eventually croak and die.


On a lighter note; some time ago (when I was in Germany) I wrote that I couldn't get hold of any pickled Iranian lemons to cook with. These are delicious, perfumed delicacies which can add a real extra dimension to a curry. I haven't found any of the Iranian ones in Exeter but I did find (in Sainsbury's oddly enough) some North African ones and these are just as good (though a little larger than the Iranian). So today I used some in my sambar and it was mighty fine. And the ingredients in the lemons? Lemons, salt and water. For some reason, traditionally prepared foods don't need 36 different chemicals.

Cake Blog

A "Natural Health Company" bakewell flapjack. By calling it the natural health company you would imagine that it was made from simple ingredients wouldn't you. Here is a list of what the ingredients were:
Oats, vegetable margarine, white chocolate flavour topping 12% (emulsifier E322), golden syrup, sugar, apple and raspberry flavour filling 7% (acidity regulators E330, E331, colours E124, E142), almond flavouring (stabilisers E414, E415), citric acid, preservative (E202, colour E150), invert sugar syrup, chocolate flavour topping.
May contain nut traces

You may notice that even the preservative contains colouring.


  • Chicken Sambar
  • Basmati Rice
  • Lime Pickle (made from limes, oil, spices and vinegar)


  • Curry Sauce, chicken, orange lentils, pickled lemons, cardamon seeds, cloves, cinnamon, panch poran, coriander powder, creamed coconut, green pepper, green chillis, fresh coriander


  • Make the Curry Sauce. Boil the lentls in water until soft and drain. Heat a little ghee in a pan, add the dry spices and fry for a few seconds, add the chicken pieces and brown. Pour in the curry sauce, lentils, some chopped pickled lemons and a little water, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in a little creamed coconut and chopped green peppers and a few chopped green chillis and simmer for a few minutes more. Add loads of fresh coriander and eat.