Miles Kington Remembered: Is there anything left to eat that doesn't contain nuts?

If it had said, 'Warning: this packet of fine sea salt may contain tiny fragments of seaweed,' I would have understood. But bits of nut in my salt?

Share
Related Topics

(22 September 1999) The other day I went into our local health food shop to buy some salt. I don't suppose health food shops really enjoy selling salt, which is now known to be very bad for you as well as being very good for you, but you don't get ordinary salt in a health food shop, anyway.

It was sea salt I was after. Not just ordinary sea salt, either, but fine sea salt. In fact, I could have gone one grade higher and bought fine organic sea salt, but as I can't quite grasp the concept of organic salt, I settled for plain old ordinary fine sea salt.

And as I was queueing to pay for my packet of fine but non-organic sea salt, my eye fell on a small message on the back of the packet. I squinted at it. It said: "Warning: this product may contain traces of nut".

This seemed odd. Why would they want to put bits of nut into salt? Have you ever seen anything like nuts in salt? Then I suddenly remembered that I had. The first time I went to France as a child I remember being very puzzled because all the salt cellars in our hotel contained what looked like little bits of nuts, and I spent our first meal-time digging around in one salt cellar and getting all these bits out, and displaying them on my side plate.

But when my father spotted what I was doing, he told me that they weren't in fact bits of nut, they were bits of rice. The French liked to put bits of rice in their salt, he said, to absorb the dampness from the salt and keep it fluffy and dry. So I spent the rest of the meal painstakingly putting all the bits of rice back into the salt cellar again.

If my packet of fine sea salt had said: "Warning: this product may contain little bits of rice inserted in traditional French style to keep it dry", I would have understood. If it had said, "Warning: this packet of fine sea salt may contain tiny fragments of dried seaweed to make it seem ever so close to nature", I would have nearly understood. But to have bits of nut in my salt ...?

So I queried it with the young man at the till.

"Be honest. How much danger is there of finding nuts in my salt?" I said, showing him the packet.

"Absolutely none at all," he said. "The packet contains 100 per cent salt and nothing else."

"Then why ...?"

"Because the manufacturers have got scared after all the recent deaths from nut allergy," he said. "So they're guarding themselves against every possible complaint. They're scattering these warnings about possible nut content on everything, even things that clearly don't contain nut. It's a panic measure to avoid any sort of compensation claim."

"But if they put warnings about possible nut content on everything," I said, "what about people who really do suffer from nut allergy? What will they be able to eat safely? What will be free from warnings about nuts?"

"Nothing," said the young man. "They will starve to death."

And that may well be the next nut allergy scandal. You'll find some poor sufferer from nut allergy who is unable to buy any food because it all bears warnings about possible nut content, yea, even unto salt and bottled water. And deprived of any safe food he will waste away and starve to death, and his grieving family will sue the manufacturers for putting false warnings about nuts on their products, leading to his death, which will mean that what the big companies thought was a safe, complaint-proof warning about nuts in fact turned out to be a killer. And will we be sorry for the big companies? No, we will not.

Meanwhile, what you all want to know is: did putting rice into salt cellars really keep the salt dry?

Well, sometimes it did and sometimes it didn't. But what the rice infallibly did was get jammed in the holes at the top of the salt cellar, so you couldn't get the salt out anyway.

In those days you were left to puzzle things like that out for yourself. Nowadays, they would have a message on those French salt cellars saying: "Warning: the presence of rice in this product may reduce salt flow, or completely halt it, and thus lead to fatal salt deficiency, and an early grave".

Warning: This article contains material that may be upsetting to those who are genuinely suffering from nut allergies.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
Photo match: Nicola Sturgeon on the balance beam on 27 April. Just like that other overnight sensation, Russian Olympian Olga Korbut, in 1972  

Election catch-up: SNP surge, Ed Balls’s giraffe noises, and Cameron’s gaffe

John Rentoul
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk