As It Happens

This U.K. bakery was ordered to stop using 'illegal sprinkles'

Rich Myers, who owns Get Baked in Leeds, England, never thought he'd get a visit from "the sprinkle police." Then he was told he was being investigated for selling products that use sprinkles containing a food colouring not approved for use in baked goods.

Get Baked owner says imported U.S. sprinkles are better for baking and British sprinkles are 'totally s--t'

Get Baked in Leeds, U.K., is pulling its best-selling raspberry glazed doughnut cookies off the menu after authorities warned them not to use sprinkles imported from the U.S. (Submitted by Rich Myers )

Story Transcript

Bakery owner Rich Myers never thought he'd get a visit from "the sprinkle police."

"We were open as normal, and along came a man from Trading Standards, which is the people that tell you when you've been naughty," Myers, owner of Get Baked in Leeds, England, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"And he said, 'You're being investigated because you're selling illegal sprinkles.' And that's the first we knew about it.'"

Get Baked uses sprinkles imported from the United States, which Myers says are far better for baking than the British kind. But the American sprinkles, he's just learned, contain a food colouring that's not approved for use in baked goods.

It's called erythrosine, also known as Red Dye No. 3 or E 127, and U.K. rules only permit it to be used in candied cherries and cocktail cherries, according to BBC News. Studies have suggested it may be linked to hyperactivity in children and an increased risk of thyroid tumours in male rats.

"Listen, I'm not a scientist, and if that's what they say, then I believe them," Myers said. "But the only thing I would say is, I think there's lots of things that result in hyperactivity in kids that are legal, such as a lot of global corporations that sell lots of fizzy drinks and soda that contains caffeine … and I think that's probably more of a problem than the sprinkles, to be fair."

'Sprinklegate'

West Yorkshire Trading Standards, the regional branch of the agency that enforces consumer protection legislation in the U.K., did not respond to a request for comment from As It Happens, but said on Twitter it has been bombarded by media requests about "sprinklegate" and stands by its decision

"We stand by the advice given and would urge all food business operators, when seeking to use imported foods containing additives, to check that they are permitted for use in the U.K.," it said of the U.S.-made sprinkles.

So why is the dye OK in candied and cocktail cherries, but not sprinkles? The U.K. Food Standards Agency says it's all about quantity.

"All food additives are subject to a robust risk assessment and authorisation process to make sure they are suitable for consumption," the agency said in an email. 

"This colouring is only permitted for use in certain foods to ensure that people do not exceed the acceptable daily intake level."

Erythrosine is on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's list of approved food colourings. A Health Canada spokesperson confirmed it can be used up to a maximum of 300 parts per million, "which permits its use in sprinkles."

The 'Birthday Bruce' — a 24-layer chocolate cake featuring sprinkles — will no longer be available at Get Baked in Leeds, U.K., after West Yorkshire Trading Standards ordered them to stop using 'illegal' sprinkles imported from the U.S. (Submitted by Rich Myers)

Myers, meanwhile, would rather go sprinkle-free than settle for an inferior local product.

"The colours run, they're not vibrant, they don't bake well," he said. 

(He was less generous in his assessment on Get Baked's Facebook page, where he wrote: "They're totally s--t and I hate them.")

Instead, he's pulling the Get Baked products that feature sprinkles — their best-selling raspberry glazed doughnut cookies and the "Birthday Bruce."

"We sell a chocolate cake called Bruce, which is very well-known. It's a 24-layer chocolate cake," he said. "We do a birthday version of Bruce where, if it's your birthday, we will put sprinkles on Bruce for free. But obviously we won't be able to do that anymore."

Somebody snitched on us for the sprinkles. Crazy, I know.- Rich Myers, bakery owner

Myers says he didn't import the "illegal" sprinkles himself, but bought them from a British supplier. In fact, he says they're quite commonly sold in the U.K. and used by many bakeries, several of which are much larger than his. 

"The sprinkle police are going to be very busy, and it's a shame that we've been the first to feel the wrath of the sprinkle police, but we've certainly felt the wrath, that's for sure."

He's not sure how he managed to get singled out, but suspects someone must have reported him.

"Somebody snitched on us for the sprinkles. Crazy, I know," he said. 

"I thought it was a little bit pathetic. But in hindsight, they've done me a massive favour because I'm currently speaking to a Canadian radio station, and I've also spoken to New Zealand, Australia, America and pretty much every city in the U.K. So I guess really, you know, it's kind of backfired for them, hasn't it?"


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Ashley Fraser. 

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