May Contain Water : a short story by GF Willmetts (story).

I blame the health and safety crowd. It started with simple things like identifying dangerous ingredients for the sensitive palates. Nuts, isn’t it? Then for dangerous ingredients for all like nicotine and some of really dangerous things like cyanide that had crept into the food chain. Not in massive amounts to kill but still there. It might have been seen as a means to build up the resistance for some people to toxicity but the reverse happens to those who were extremely sensitive. The old Mexican hat statistic scenario again with the people in the middle wondering what all the fuss was about as they chow down on anything with nary a stomach ache.

It didn’t stop there. It became an imperative to identify every ingredient and the amounts used to the public. It was a sure bet that by doing that all manufacturers could avoid insurance claims by saying they did put a warning in the small print. Not their fault you would originally need a magnifying glass. Even a hint of the old pecan or walnut being in the same factory and there had to be a warning just in case someone flatlined and even the nut-intolerance people thought that was taking things too far because it meant they couldn’t eat things they thought were safe just because of a health warning. A trace could be as much as a homeopath remedy ie nothing much in the water to cause any distress. Which is a lot different to actually including the ingredient which could be read off the label.

NASA discovers Saturn's moon, Enceladus, has massive underground ocean of liquid water!

But ask yourself. Yes, it’s important to know what’s in anything but would you rather know which ingredient is dangerous or a wave some hundred yards apart? Some people are egg, shellfish, nut, lactose or gluten intolerant and need big glaring signs in otherwise attractive looking foods or something new on the market that they might unknowingly try. The same goes with particular additives like particular E colours or even the common monosodium glutamate which are commonly known. If you don’t what aspects of arthritis avoid aspartame because that happens with a build-up in the body.When you have foodstuff that combines all of these, you want big friggin’ signs on them to show that they are dangerous or have them taken off the shelves or you might as well sell them with adrenalin syringes just to be, y’know, on the safe side.

It would make as much sense to have the safer foodstuffs on different shelves just in case being close to the foods that contained such dangerous ingredients contaminated them. There’s maybe dangerous, dangerous and really dangerous. It isn’t like we all eat pufferfish sushi, is it? What a lot of fugu nonsense that is, but that’s the Japanese food style for you as they want to see how close to dying they can get. They like to live dangerously, not to the other 98% of the world.

Thing is, health and safety are getting over-cautious in this insurance-based world. Whether it’s some jobsworth or they’re finding it difficult to find things to label as potentially dangerous, the latest ingredient labelled as such is water. Might contain water, I ask you? What else can it contain? What’s a ‘might’ got to do with it. Water has to be in all foods or certainly has to be added to be made edible. It’s a basic ingredient in everything. Short of drowning in it, how can water be dangerous to anyone? We’re made of the stuff. Are you allergic to yourself for containing water? What are they going to do next? Label particular parts of the atom just in case you get a whiff of them? Might contain electrons. Of course it’ll contain electrons. They and protons and neutrons are the basic building blocks of any atom.

It’s bad enough that they highlight dangerous ingredients in colours codes now but that’s largely because there aren’t enough literate people out there capable of reading labels in the first place. So what happens next? Death by illiteracy?! Sorry, your inability to read the ingredient list does not make us responsible for your death. Why don’t you just forget the labels and eat fresh food but that would be asking too much, wouldn’t it?




© GF Willmetts 2014

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Is this too close to our own reality?

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