Monday, 2 May 2016

ponceau 4r

As possibly one of the biggest hoaxes to come out of France since arguably the Priory of Sion (and notable for being a contemporary phenomenon with the bloodline conspiracy), the missive known as the Villejuif leaflet (anonymous but sourced to the oncological institute in the Paris suburbs) spread from 1976 onward with impressive virality contained a list of twenty or so—several different versions were in circulation for over a decade—of food additives, preservatives, and colouring agents alleged to be carcinogenic.
The original author of the pamphlet that was shared more than seven million times via chain-letters (chaîne de lettres, and more by word of mouth) across Europe was never identified and seemed to be spring-boarding his or her concerns off of the newly introduced codes called E Numbers that standardised food chemical labelling for the continent—as if the coding scheme was a veiled way to peddle poison like the notion that barcodes were the mark of the Devil, the classification system reserving E100-199 for dyes, E300-399 antioxidants, E900-E999 for sweeteners and so on. Obviously, processed food ought to be avoided when possible, and naturally the definition of fit for consumption is a fluid one, though I think that these specific panics are sometimes red-herrings, like so many red M&Ms, and regulatory bodies within the EU have rejected some of the substances deemed safe in the US—even if that use in America is strictly limited to colouring the skin of oranges to make them look riper or as cosmetics for other things that generally aren’t in the human food-chain, but that list also included a lot of naturally occurring compounds that are synthesised in industrial kitchens, like sodium sulphite, potassium nitrate, and citric acid. It was that last item that especially caused a panic, which is a pervasive food-additive, and propagated as the most toxic.  Perhaps the list (which we still encounter today as super foods and super villain foods, confronting us especially in the whitespaces of the internet) began innocently enough when a concerned but confused citoyen heard that citric acid was an essential catalyst for the Krebs cycle, mistaking the German word for cancer for the act of metabolising.  Incidentally, E124 or Ponceau 4R is a chemical pigment meaning poppy-red and one of the few not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration