Katy Guest: A cocktail of food additives? I'll pass, thank you

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The Independent Online

In a twisted reversal of the infamous Delia effect, will supermarkets be selling out of mushy peas, Turkish delight and angel cake this weekend? No, it's not the latest book by Nigel Slater, called Instant Whipped: How 1970s Junk Food Saved My Life; it's a new directive from the Food Standards Agency that promises details on a "cocktail of food additives" guaranteed to get you totally out of your head.

Following research at Southampton University, the FSA is recommending that six food colourings be removed from foods on the grounds that they make children really, really crazy. These are tartrazine, quinoline yellow, sunset yellow, ponceau 4R, allura red and carmoisine.

Disregarding the fact that a decent vintage ponceau is wasted on kids anyway, and the surprising revelation that yellow is the way madness lies, to whom does this come as news? Have the people at the FSA never been to one of those weddings where a gang of three-year-olds finds the stash of cherryade and bounces off the walls until morning? And where can grown-ups find such a cocktail? Do the Tetra Pak billionaires drink it for breakfast? Perhaps coincidentally, this report emerged in the same week that scientists managed to analyse Delia's salt content. They've been working on it since the TV series started, apparently, but it kept sending all the instruments screwy and they've had to bring in one of those scales they use for weighing elephants in circuses.

Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking, which hit the bookshelves in February and the BBC in March, shows what happens when you take good, wholesome ingredients and fake them up with chemical additives. The sections in which Delia throws in a pre-grated personality and a thick lump of frozen charm are an exercise in why you should never mess with a well-established recipe. And now we find that her thick pea and bacon soup contains as much salt as 23 bags of crisps. Really, something so hard to swallow should at least be good for you.

Well it's too late to start why-oh-whying about whatever happened to just showing people how to make food.

All television chefs now have their own secret ingredient: Jamie does it with Mockney and a cheeky extra chilli; Gordon does it by swearing and constantly getting his kit off and Nigella does it with, well, the less said about what Nigella does it with the better.

But Delia was not made for a world of River Café showmanship and cheffy poncing about. Neither was her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones, who squats bewildered in her kitchen from time to time as if he has mistakenly agreed to appear in a documentary about the ceremonial feasting habits of some gruesome tribe of woodlouse eaters and is now deeply regretting it. You get the impression that his idea of cheating at cooking involves asking the chippy to hold all the green crap on his post-match kebab.

With this new series, the BBC has completely missed the point: in a process of natural selection, anyone too stupid to grate cheese doesn't deserve to eat. Or is it all a cunning plan to educate the public? If processed food has made Delia lose her marbles, what could it do to us lesser mortals? Does too much salt lead to that glazed expression and fixed grin? And should we steer clear of yellow colourings? Tartrazine screws you up, man. It makes you stand in a football stadium, swaying on your feet and yelling "Let's be 'avin ya!" at a bunch of canaries. With this as a warning, who needs the FSA?

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