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Catching up on some of the food stories of the year so far:

Core, what a contest

American attempts to export apples to Japan ran into problems with the oriental way of eating. In Japan, apples are washed, peeled, cored and cut into slices before serving. Biting into them is simply not done. The Americans, accordingly, organised an apple-munching contest in Tokyo in January. The winner, however, said she preferred the bigger and sweeter Japanese apples to small American ones.

Earning his bread

A scientist at Aston University has shown that the laws of physics make toast fall more often on its buttered side.

Chocolate standards

One hundred thousand Swiss chocolate-lovers have called for "a plebiscite for preserving the Swiss chocolate quality", following a change in the law that allowed, from 1 July, up to five per cent vegetable oils in a chocolate recipe that formerly insisted on pure cocoa butter.

British bean breakthrough

Experts in Cambridge have been given the credit for developing the first British baked bean. Navy beans - the best raw material - have until now proved impossible to grow in Britain, but the development of new varieties has led to the promise of thousands of tins of British baked beans, in Union Jack labels, on supermarket shelves this autumn.

Grapefruit is good for you

Researchers in Miami have shown that grapefruit juice can greatly increase the potency of an anti-rejection drug.

So is chewing gum...

Researchers in Alabama have shown that sugar-free chewing gum can clear gastric acids and prevent heartburn.

Anyone importing chewing gum into Singapore is liable to a fine (on a first offence) of around pounds 4,000, and a year in jail. The ban was renewed this year after first being imposed in 1992 to keep subway trains from being delayed by wads of gum stuck on the doors which prevented them from functioning properly.

Da Vinci's Last Burger

After complaints from the public, a Swedish fast-food chain cancelled an advertising campaign which used a detail from Leonardo da Vinci's fresco The Last Supper. The advert showed the face and chest of Jesus over the slogan "Number One Meal". The group's director said: "Our next campaign will be more product-orientated." The Last Supper campaign has cost a third of their annual budget.

Inexplicable bananas

A lorry-load of bananas was destroyed by two unexplained explosions while being driven on the A3 in Surrey in June. "I never knew that bananas could spontaneously combust," said a spokeswoman for Surrey Fire Brigade.

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