Coloured in …

Breaking news in the UK last week was the contamination of over 400 ready meals in all the major supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsburys, Marks and Spencer, Asda) with the illegal cancer causing red dye ‘Sudan 1’ (Consumers were advised to destroy any of these products they haven’t already eaten.)

While not chocolate related, this does raise a useful spotlight on the use of unnecessary additives in all our foods, including chocolate.

The question has to be – why? Ok, I can understand, but not agree with, the argument for preservatives and industrial processing techniques to prolong shelf life and make mass distribution of otherwise perishable food products possible. Like artificial flavourings though, the addition of food colouring in products such as ready meals serves only one purpose – to hide cheap, industrially reconstructed ingredients, making products appear more attractive and nutritious to consumers than they otherwise would be – basically to fool the public.

The important lesson here is to look for the sources of the food you eat, and never buy ANYTHING without first reading the ingredients. You won’t have spotted Sudan 1, as this was added in error to chilli powder used in Worcester Sauce, but you can bet most of the recalled products also contained a list of ‘E’ numbers as long as your arm.

So, tedious as this may sound, begin every purchase by flipping the item over and looking at the ingredients list. Start at the end of the list and put your potential purchase back on the shelf at the first additive, or if you see the word ‘flavour’. As consumers we have the power to change the way the food market operates, but only if we are aware of what’s going on in our food. Let Sudan 1 be a wake up call.

With dark fine chocolate the job is easy. It should contain only cocoa mass, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor or cocoa solids – the wording varies, but at least 60% cocoa solids in total – along with sugar and real vanilla (not ‘natural vanilla flavour’ or vanillin). Soya Lecithin is also acceptable. If you see anything else, leave the bar amongst the other candy where it belongs.

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