Elsewhere around the world Ferrero Group, the Italian candy company, sells (with a suitable warning label) a treat called Kinder Surprise which consists of chocolate surrounding a small toy. However, the product is said to be illegal for sale in the United States: according to Donald Mays of Consumer Reports, “a nonfood item cannot be imbedded in a food product” under a law dating back to the 1930s. (“Choking-Hazard Easter Eggs Appear On Store Shelves”, WNBC, Apr. 5). If accurate, this would help explain something we’ve noted a couple of times in earlier posts (Feb. 1, 2002, Jan. 18, 2007), namely that store-bought Mardi Gras King Cakes do not have the little figurine baked into their batter that is found in the more authentic New Orleans versions.
In its traditional presentation, the celebrated Mardi-Gras-season New Orleans King Cake contains a small concealed figurine of a baby which someone gets as part of their slice; the lucky recipient then has to throw the next party or buy the next cake. Back in Feb. 2002 we ran an item, quoting columnist James Lileks, on how purveyors of some store-bought King Cakes no longer were willing to conceal such a figurine, tradition or no. For a discussion of King Cakes, including a picture of what one looks like, check Blawg Review #90, just published the other week at Minor Wisdom.
Now the New York Times introduces us to what is apparently the original French version of the cake, a flat round galette, also served during Carnival and also concealing a good-luck figurine. Don’t expect to encounter this delicacy in American stores, however, for reasons readers of this site will easily anticipate:
Alexandre Colas recalled that he once met a baker from Syracuse, N.Y., at a trade show in Paris, who at first showed interest in buying porcelain favors for his baked goods but later backed off. “He said there were too many legal issues,” he said.
(John Taglibue, “3 Lands of Orient Compete With French Holiday Favors”, New York Times, Jan. 17).
- “It is one of the first times that two big craft brewers have been in a lawsuit against each other.” [San Francisco Chronicle]
- Hee hee: poll finds more than 80 percent of public favors “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” cf. comparable polls on GMO labeling [Ilya Somin]
- Chicago crackdown on paid private dinner parties comes after Michelin awards two stars to local restaurant that started that way [Illinois Policy]
- “Is Foodborne Illness on the Rise?” [Baylen Linnekin]
- “The Queens’ Tea in Salt Lake City sued by another queen over name” [Salt Lake Tribune]
- Virginia legislator’s bill would end inspection of home kitchens used to produce food for direct sale [Watchdog, earlier on “cottage food” laws, related E.N. Brown]
- “There’s a very simple reason you don’t find favors in king cakes anymore: We have too many lawyers in America” [WSJ, earlier]
- If you thought “finger in chili” was bad, meet the Utah couple arrested on charges of planting razor blade shards in doughnuts and swallowing some [KSL, Daily Mail]
- My talk a few weeks ago as part of Cato Institute panel on nanny state [YouTube, Bruce Majors]
- New Reason-RUPE public opinion survey finds public broadly opposed to food and drink bans [Sullum]
- Feds’ bad advice on polyunsaturated fat: more damaging than any mass tort in sight? [David Oliver] More: Hans Bader.
- Coroner blames woman’s death on Coca-Cola addiction [TV NZ] Monster Beverage: natural causes, not caffeine toxicity, killed Maryland teen [Reuters, NYT, earlier] More: Jacob Sullum.
- Oh, CSPI, thou contradictest thyself [Baylen Linnekin; more from him on parents’ and kids’ food choices quoting me, NYC soda ban]
- “Bloomberg limits seder portions” [Purim spoof, New York Jewish Week]
- Kelly Brownell, guru of obesity-reduction-through-coercion formerly based at Yale, named dean of public policy school at Duke;
- “A Knife, a Walmart Birthday Cake and a Frenzy of Overreaction” [Free-Range Kids] Mardi Gras perennial: can you buy king cake with baby figurine already in it? [same, earlier]
- Now they tell us: NYT book review not conspicuously enthusiastic about Michael Moss anti-food-biz book hyped to the rafters in NYT magazine three weeks earlier [Ira Stoll, SmarterTimes, our take]
Among ways to add to the festive atmosphere: sign-in and sign-out sheets, monitors hired to look out for slip-inducing bead spills, and rules against letting supervisors or employees pour drinks. [Melissa Landry, The Hay Ride] Earlier on Mardi Gras liability here (tossed coconuts), here (floats), here (King cake figurine), and here (flasher’s-remorse cases.
The New York Times has more on the customs surrounding the traditional French galette des rois baked with little figurines inside, though it does not get into the possible legal or regulatory angles that might prohibit placing such items in interstate commerce. In this case they’re prepared by a licensed home baker in Larchmont, N.Y. For the cases of New Orleans king cake, Christmas puddings, Kinder Surprise candy, etc., see earlier posts.
The High Timber restaurant in London is seeking to protect itself because it follows the traditional practice of including the occasional coin or silver charm for lucky diners to happen upon. [Zincavage] Similarly in this 2005 dispatch (supermarket pudding); for the parallel custom of baking figurines into New Orleans king cake, see these posts.
No need to worry that greeters will be foisting cookies on returning soldiers at Bangor International Airport any more: “airport officials asked the greeters to stop serving food last month because of concern about liability and food safety. ‘We just say, “We’re sorry, we can’t give out any cookies,”‘ said Bill Knight, a World War II veteran who founded the group.” (Katie Zezima, “Airport Tries to Rein In Greeters’ Generosity Toward Troops”, New York Times, Jun. 21). Other food menaces averted: Dec. 13, 1999 (homemade pies), Jan. 29, 2001 (school cookies, country fair pies and jams), Feb. 1-3, 2002, Jan. 18 and Apr. 28, 2007 (figurines in New Orleans king cake), Apr. 15, 2004 (potluck dinners), Jul. 18, 2006 (homemade baked goods in U.K. nursing home), and Apr. 28, 2007 (candy-wrapped toy).
In Great Britain, a nursing home spokeswoman explains why visitors are allowed to bring in cakes and other baked goods only when they’re store-bought, not homemade. (Nanny Knows Best (U.K.), Jun. 14)(via Nobody’s Business). Other food menaces averted: Dec. 13, 1999 (homemade pies), Jan. 29, 2001 (cookies), Feb. 1-3, 2002 (figurines in New Orleans king cake), Apr. 15, 2004 (potluck dinners).
Sainsbury’s, the British grocery chain, says it will have to go back on a plan to sell Christmas puddings with “lucky sixpences” inside because of health and safety regs under which they are regarded as a choking hazard; instead it will attach the coins to “collectors’ cards” and suggest that customers place them under the plate or placemat of a lucky family member. “[G]ood luck charms have been added to Christmas puddings for more than 500 years.” (David Derbyshire, “Unlucky sixpences miss out on Christmas”, Daily Telegraph, Oct. 18). For an analogous U.S. story involving the New Orleans specialty, “king cake”, see Feb. 1-3, 2002. The police force in Derbyshire, England, has tested its dogs to see whether their barking is in compliance with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations being introduced next April; the canines’ level of noisiness barely passed muster under the new standard, and modifications such as earplugs for police may needed when use of the dogs in anti-crime work combines with another source of noise such as that of a crowd. (Nick Britten, “Police take the lead on barking regulations”, Daily Telegraph, Oct. 27). For more on British and EU noise regulations, see Nov. 10, 2005 (kids’ playing); Sept. 2, 2005 (Army tanks); Jan. 12, 2004 (orchestras); Mar. 8-10, 2002 (bagpipes); Dec. 22-25, 2000 (military brass bands and gunfire during infantry training). In Worcester, England, teenager Natasha Hughes, who is accused of grievous bodily harm directed at another woman and was charged with violating her bail conditions, will not have to wear an electronic monitoring anklet after she successfully argued that the device violated her fashion sense and looked bad with skirts. (Nick Britten, “You can’t tag me. . . I like to wear skirts”, Daily Telegraph, Nov. 11). For a similar argument made in this country, see Dec. 4, 2000 (exotic dancer). And the following exchange was heard on the floor of the House of Lords this Wednesday:
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, is my noble and learned friend aware of the case that I read about recently in which there were three main suspects for a crime: a rich lawyer, a poor lawyer and a tooth fairy? Needless to say, the rich lawyer was arrested because the other two were figments of the imagination.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it does the House no credit to do anti-lawyer jokes.
(Hansard, Nov. 16). Reader Bob Clarke, of Birmingham, U.K. who called this exchange to our attention, writes: “I don’t think that my learned Lord should drop his day job and start being a stand-up comedian. He made the same joke in 2000“.