One of a number of interesting changes to take place hereabouts is the new Consumer Protection Law. A major move for the UAE, which has always cried 'laissez faire' when anything that could be considered bad for business has been suggested, the law insists on things like labels that tell consumers what's in a product and where it comes from. This is, one would conjecture, Not A Bad Thing.
A smart retailer, presented with the fact of the matter, would perhaps roll with the punch - welcome the regulation and even promise to exceed the regulatory requirement in the interests of consumers.
Not so local expat supermarket Spinneys, whose CEO (Mr. Johanned Hotlzhausen) reacted to Gulf News with the begrudging comment: "It's going to cost me money."
Poor darling. Really. But at least he's got consumers' best interests at heart, as his final quote in the Gulf News report demonstrates: "...if it's a law then we will have to adhere to that."
So it's no surprise to find, this weekend, a packet of Lebanese Sausages being labelled in a more fulsome way than ever before. What's surprising is that a) it happened so quietly and b) what's in them.
Lebanese, or sujuk, sausages are traditionally made from beef, with garlic, pepper and spice, including sumak, which gives them a deep purple-red colour and spicy taste. Chili is sometimes added to make 'hot sausage'.
Not when you buy them from a certain supermarket... Ingredients, as per the new super-duper labelling scheme, below:
Fresh beef, vinegar, seasoning, food colour (sodium chloride, sunset yellow E110, Carmosine E122).
Carmosine is a literal - it's carmoisine. And like sunset yellow (E110), it's bloody evil stuff.
E110, Sunset Yellow, is a synthetic dye derived from coal tar (creosote to you and me) and typically used in heated processed foods. It has a horrific list of potential side effects, particularly for children and is, in fact, not recommended for consumption by children in the UK.
E122, Carmoisine, is also a deeply suspect coal tar colour - and also known to cause adverse reactions in up to 25% of all toddlers.
In the 1980s, in the UK, a huge fuss centered around the publication of a book called E for Additives which listed these types of processed food additive chemicals, their origins (Cochineal, a popular red food dye, is made from beetle wings - Brown FK, used to dye electrically smoked kippers, is also derived from creosote - and there's plenty more where they came from - like E110 and E122) and their potential side effects. The reaction of revolted consumers and concerned parents created a new sense of responsibility among food companies and saw natual colours, preservatives and flavourings being used instead.
Insidiously, these chemicals are creeping back into our diets. At least the new law obliges retailers to tell people what they're eating. If you want to keep an eye out for more of this kind of thing, a good reference site is here.