Every time you think you have just come across the most stupid example of human behaviour, up pops some other contender shouting, ‘Pick me, for I am surely the most stupid person in the world, or at least I have come up with the most stupid suggestion.” However sometimes things aren’t that clear cut.
This week the Danes are in the news for what looks like all the wrong reasons. No, not the dogs, but those people from Northern Europe who colonised Dannevirke and who are reputed to be the happiest people in the world, although in the light of what has come to my attention this week, you wonder if Gallup mistook happiness for babbling insanity.
The Danes have just banned Marmite. Yes, Marmite is now illegal in Denmark. But not only Marmite; that dastardly and no doubt addictive secret indulgence of many an apparently straight-laced older person, Horlicks is also verboten or rather forbudt (as they would say in Denmark). Rice Crispies, Shreddies and Ovaltine are also illegal substances. That must have really added legions to the list of substance abusers in Denmark. I wonder if they have support groups for those coming off Marmite or who have a bad Shreddies habit. I wondered if they might offer a Vegemite programme to wean them off the stuff, but I discovered that, too has been banned. So I guess it will have to be cold turkey. I’ve never understood how eating cold turkey can cure you of your addiction – unless of course your addiction is to turkey.
When I heard of these bans I initially became annoyed because I am not a great supporter of bans. They seldom ever work and just cause more antagonism between the opposing camps. Usually all that happens is the substance concerned ends up being peddled by criminals over whom no controls can be placed. I don’t know whether the Danes have a Mafia or whether it will be the local chapter of Valhalla’s Angels that will be selling vials of Marmite in back alleys, but rest assured someone will be doing it.
There have already been some memorable quotes on the subject. One ex-pat Pom living in Denmark is alleged to have said, “if they want to take my Marmite off me they'll have to wrench it from my cold dead hands." She’s obviously been taking too much of the stuff and having a vit, which is a vitamin induced fit, a bit similar to roid rage.
Another less imaginative fellow asked what he was to put on his toast now. Poor chap – he is probably one of those people who would REALLY scream out, “Help I’m stuck on an escalator”. Obviously the B12 does not increase brain power.
Some of the jingoistic English types have taken the whole thing personally and believe it is part of an elaborate insult against their products. Colonel Blimp sorts have been calling for a ban in Britain on Danish bacon, Lego, Arne Jacobsen chairs, and no doubt also Carlsberg, Tuborg, Hans Christian Anderson and Lars Ulrich of Metallica. They seem to have conveniently forgotten this is not the first time Marmite has been at least restricted. A few short years ago several schools in Wales took it from their canteens because of its excessive salt content. I don’t remember a call going out to ban leeks, Caerphilly cheese, Tom Jones, Charlotte Church or the works of Dylan Thomas.
But, silly as Denmark’s ban sounds, and silly as it actually is, there is an apparent logic behind it. The stated reason is legislation they adopted in 2004 which prohibits the sale of foods with added vitamins and minerals. To most people this still sounds bloody stupid and I’m inclined to agree. However if you think about it calmly, I think the point being made is that it is far better to eat foods that are naturally vitamin and mineral rich rather than those that have them added afterwards. Added vitamins suggests they are quite possibly synthetic concoctions rather than natural, and on that count I would have to agree it is far better to avoid those foods that have been enhanced.
To me that makes sense although not to the extent of banning the stuff. However it would appear the Danish authorities are a little unsure of themselves on this and when the Danish Veterinary and Food Association (a weird combination of interests if you ask me) was asked for comment earlier this week, they said they couldn’t comment on the Marmite case “because our expert is away until Thursday”.
In an interesting aside, Denmark was also the first European country to legalise same sex marriages and give homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual ones. Which reminds me of an old chestnut that did the rounds about the late Peter Sinclair and Marmite.....
It’s not long since they were found to be the happiest chappies on the planet, so I have to conclude that a life without Marmite, Horlicks, Ovaltine, Shreddies Rice Crispies and vegemite is the secret to a happy life.
Maybe if we banned a few more foods we could be as happy as the Danes. Let’s start with the diet of garbage we are about to be fed between now and November.