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Thursday, November 25, 2004

Salt Liquorice

Some friends are visiting us from Sweden and have left us with a bag of salt liquorice, which is one of those "hard to find anywhere but Sweden (or Finland)" things. Being me, the first thing I did was read the ingredients. It's basically sugar, corn starch, ammonium chloride, liquorice, color (E153), and flavorings.

Color E153 is "vegetable carbon" and is banned in the US (and only certain forms of it are allowed in Australia/NZ). I guess that's one reason it's hard to find.

But then there is the ammonium chloride--otherwise known as sal ammoniac (so called because it was originally made from the soot from camel's dung at the temple of Jupiter Ammon in Africa). This is presumably the white salt all over the outside of each piece of liquorice. Another brand lists it specifically as 6% of the contents.

Searching for ammonium chloride in food, the first hits I get involve using it as a soldering flux when making tin cans. More commonly, it appears to be used in making dry-cell batteries.

So, let's get to the point: is it good to eat?

According to the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet):

Potential Health Effects

Causes irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Skin Contact:
Causes irritation to skin. Symptoms include redness, itching, and pain.

First Aid Measures

Induce vomiting immediately as directed by medical personnel. Get medical attention.

Skin Contact:
Immediately flush skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Remove contaminated clothing and shoes. Get medical attention. Wash clothing before reuse. Thoroughly clean shoes before reuse.


Here's what they recommend: Wear impervious protective clothing, including boots, gloves, lab coat, apron or coveralls, as appropriate, to prevent skin contact.

Boy, talk about high-maintenance food! (And you thought lobster bibs were a hassle.)

But it's worth it--they're pretty tasty.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com