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Ice Cream and Beaver Anal Secretions! By Mrs Vera West

     Did that get your attention? There are too many levels of meaning to probe too deeply here, so let us quickly get to the main event. There is a highly amusing, but still thoughtful piece at Natural dealing with the often bizarre origins of some food additives:

“Common foods aren’t always prepared in sterile conditions. It’s not uncommon for people to accidentally consume food with contaminants like feces, insects, mold, parasites, rodent hairs, and soil. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Defect Levels Handbook, some items have acceptable or non-hazardous levels of these undisclosed ingredients. To illustrate, two cups of cornmeal may contain at least five insects, 10 insect fragments, 10 rodent hairs, and five fragments of rodent feces.

Ice cream with a splash of beaver secretion
Castoreum, a natural flavoring, is a thick and aromatic secretion that comes from the anal glands of beavers. This ingredient gives a vanilla flavor to certain dairy products and desserts. Near the end of the 19th century, beavers were hunted almost to extinction due to the high demand for castoreum, which was used as a food additive and fragrance. German chemists came to the beavers’ rescue when they discovered that vanillin, one of the chemicals responsible for the taste of vanilla, can be obtained from coniferin in pine bark. Synthetic vanillin makes up at least 94 percent of all vanilla flavoring used by the food industry, with natural vanilla extract accounting for most of the remaining six percent. However, castoreum is still used in limited quantities to flavor luxury foods and beverages.

Cheese with stomach enzymes
Traditional rennet, another “natural” ingredient, is used to make cheese. It is derived from the mucous membrane of the fourth stomach (abomasum) of young ruminants like calves and lambs. (Related: “Natural flavors” are anything but.) Cheesemakers use rennet to separate milk into curds and whey for a crucial stage in the manufacturing process. While some cheesemakers still use traditional rennet, others use alternatives made from bacterial fermentation, mold, and plants (e.g., ivy and nettles).

Mad honey disease
Several members of the rhododendron genus of flowering plants produce grayanotoxins in their nectar. These neurotoxic substances are collected by bees to make honey. Consuming this honey causes “mad honey disease” in humans. This contamination may result in negative side effects like hallucinations, nausea, and vomiting.

Lethal pickles
Food preservation methods such as pickling are used to extend the shelf life of food. But did you know that improperly preserved food can promote the growth of Clostridium botulinum? Aren’t you glad that ice cream isn’t made with beaver anal secretions… anymore?”

     Sure, I am, although I don’t know what Australians did for their ice-cream in the past with no beaver bums around. Anyway, be careful with some honeys, which I don’t eat much of nowadays, but the organic versions are always better. It is fortunate for the beaver population that artificial flavours have saved their butts! There must be some highly grateful beavers out there working extra hard on constructing dams for us.

     On his glorious Spring day, where I am inside working on articles, the sun surely mises me. But, to take us out, here is old “blue eyes,” giving us his version of Some Enchanted Evening, to take our minds off of possibly contaminated food, like chocolate, famous for having cockroach parts in it:



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Thursday, 28 May 2020
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