Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A Lot Of Bottle

Alcohol. The solution to and cause of all life’s problems. I think Alain de Botton said that. Or maybe Homer Simpson. Some baldy guy anyway.

My thoughts have yet again turned to stiff and soft drinks. On alcohol I note the Scotch Whisky Association is taking the Scottish Government to court over its plan for minimum pricing. It’s not a giant Alka Seltzer that will clear Scotland’s national hangover but is a small measure we’d be daft not to take. Research suggests it will save hundreds of lives and prevent thousands of hospital admissions every year.

I’m probably what the opponents of minimum pricing would call a moderate drinker, and do you know, I have no problem with my booze costing more.

The other day Wife-features scolded me for buying “non-essential” alcohol. I admit it was an impulse purchase. I spotted Noilly Prat vermouth on the shelf in the local wine shop and remembered we had none in the drinks cabinet and that it had been months, possibly over a year since I last stirred up a decent dry martini. We had a friend visiting for the weekend and as I was already buying gin…

I’m comfortable with booze being a treat as it can so easily become a crutch. Anything that steers our culture in that direction has to be welcomed. And I’m particularly conscious that our three and a half year old Bairn already knows how to clink glasses and go “cheers” to mark special occasions. I’d rather her memories of me weren’t all with me holding a dram or plinking two olives into a Gibson.

On soft drinks I note a selfish move similar to big whisky’s minimum pricing challenge is underway in the States following the perfectly reasonable idea by the authorities to limit huge servings of fizzy pop - or soda as they cutely call it over there. Who on earth drinks more than half a litre of Coke in a sitting? And the companies suing claim they’re worried about their reputations. I wonder if they thought how stalling a public health measure would look?

Finally for now on soft drinks I feel a small battle coming on with the company responsible for “Simply Fruity”.

We were out for a stroll in Dalkeith Country Park recently (£4 entry fee, amazing if slightly wobbly tree top trail, lots of sweet chestnuts falling in the massive forest) and stopped at the tea room for a cuppa. I usually take a bottle of tap water on our walks but on this occasion we bought a bottle of what appeared to be fruit juice.

Upon closer inspection here’s what “Simply Fruity” contains:

5% fruit juice (blackcurrant and apple)
Citric Acid (excellent limescale remover)
Natural Flavourings (these are food essences and contain no nutrition)
Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K) Each is 200 times sweeter than sugar, which makes 400 times. There are claims that aspartame gives rats tumours but the FSA seems OK with it.

Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate - described as a skin, eye and respiratory irritant - and Dimethyl Dicarbonate - a bug killer)

Stabiliser (Carboxymethyl Cellulose - the thickening used in KY Jelly)

Contains a source of phenylalanine (Pain relief created by genetically engineering e-coli bacteria. Yum.)

And who makes this rollercoaster ride of a refreshment?

AG Barr.

I thought they made things in Scotland from girders. They certainly have a brass neck targeting kids with a cocktail of chemicals called “Simply Fruity”. Simply not on. I shall be taking them to task. Better have a stiff drink first.


  1. "Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K) Each is 200 times sweeter than sugar, which makes 400 times. "

    I disagree with your reasoning on that one grandad, I mean greendad.

    Sweetness as far as I am aware is defined quantitatively by taking sweeter substance A and diluting it until it tastes as sweet as less sweet substance B.
    Therefore Aspartame solution needs to be 200 times as dilute as sugar solution to taste as sweet. Therefore a mixture of two substances, aspartame and Acesulfame K both of which are 200 times as sweet as sugar will itself also be 200 times as sweet. If you want I can put in numbers to show you what I mean.

    Additionally, how sweet the ingredients are is probably irrelevant because the manufacturers are seeking a certain sweetness in the dilution. When using a mixter of aspartame and Acesulfame K they presumably add 1/200 of the weight of that mixture than when they use sugar.

    I agree with you that the drink you had was a dollop of cack, I'm just not sure that all the evidence you provided, was up to the standard your readership expects of you.

  2. I'm largely fumbling in the dark with this stuff but hey, so are most other parents! I see what you mean about dilution rather than being sweeter. My point is a "simple" fruit drink shouldn't have such a baffling list of ingredients. I did take the matter up and have had some interesting responses...

  3. GD - I agree, the error re sweetness doesn't "dilute" the overall point you were making regarding "simple fruit drinks". I wasn't criticising your general message, just that very specific detail regarding the sweetness of a mixture of sweeteners.

    Keep up the good work, GD.
    Don't let such revolting pedants as me distract you from your mission.
    Revolting Pedant