Oedipus Gingerbread

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The L.A. Times reports on one man's litigious campaign to rid California of the little silver balls people use for eyes on gingerbread men:

"This is a poison," he says, gesturing at several bottles of dragees on his conference room table. "It is, by [the manufacturers'] own admission, not edible. And yet they're producing it in a way that induces consumption. They're making it out of sugar and intentionally allowing it to be put on—desserts!"

Via Virginia Postrel.

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  1. Dragees? I wasn’t aware there was a term for them.

    My mom always told me not to eat them when she decorated cookies with them. But they taste like sugar!

    So I settled for lead paint chips instead. Not as sweet, but I was always cautious about my figure.

  2. Pollock grabbed a bottle and noticed that one of the ingredients was silver. It’s “a bio-accumulative metal that, like lead and mercury, stays in the body forever,” he says.

    So, think about it. …You eat it, and then you get to keep it. …and it’s silver.

  3. Who’s gonna save the children?

  4. Dear Zeus, I’ve eaten at least a hundred of those things. Uh, oh.

  5. On second thought, it makes sense that there is a name for “dragees”. The French have a term for all things cooking and baking.

    Dragees — those are nothing. I’ve been to a rather good Indian restaurant around here that serves some of its dishes with entire sheets of pure, melted silver on top. I was on a date there once, and our food was brought out, and my date and I were first confused and thought that some aluminum foil or wax paper had accidentally melted onto the top of his entree. (We later realized that, of course, aluminum foil wouldn’t melt.) We asked our server about it and he explained that the thin sheet of silver was representative of royalty.

    Heh. Yeah, a while later in the relationship my date turned out to be somewhat of a royal asshole. But at least he ate the poison, not me.

  6. What a world-class asshole Pollock is. I’d love to meet him someday, just so I can kick him in his radical-but-well-dressed nads.

  7. “And I thought: That’s weird. I’ve eaten these things. These are typically on a Christmas cookie that is shaped like a Christmas tree and the little silver balls are like little jawbreakers. What do you mean ‘Use only as a decoration?'”

    Is Larry David writing his material?

  8. Silver balls
    Silver balls
    It’s poison time
    In your cookies!

    Scarf them down
    Without a frown
    Soon you will have poi-son-ing!

  9. I’m really starting to dislike the ‘children’. I know it’s not their fault, but I just can’t help it…

  10. Don’t worry, can’t we just put all the kiddies in LA on chelation, or does that only “work” for mercury?

  11. I don’t know about the rest of you, but metal is one of my favorite things to eat. Ever since I first chewed on soldering lead and chased my first ball of mercury around the bathroom floor, I’ve been an addict. Smacky, where is this silver-laden curry restaurant of which you speak?

  12. Can I keep my libertarian credentials if I think it’s OK to require stuff (that a reasonable person would perceive as being) sold as food be edible? Which leads me to wonder, why the hell it isn’t?

  13. I don’t know about the rest of you, but metal is one of my favorite things to eat. Ever since I first chewed on soldering lead and chased my first ball of mercury around the bathroom floor, I’ve been an addict.

    linguist,

    I feel the same way. As a small tot I used to suck on my mom’s keys on her keyring during church. One of my favorite keys to suck on was this decorative key that was made of some kind of really salty metal. Mmm…heavy metal. I think I liked the keyring even better than floor cheerios.

    Smacky, where is this silver-laden curry restaurant of which you speak?

    Cafe Tandoor, on the east side of C-town.

  14. “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” –Frank Lloyd Wright

  15. And you know something else? Those silver balls were my favorite things to eat on Christmas cookies (of course I didn’t actually listen to my mother..heehee). I guess I should probably not eat them anymore. But let’s be honest: the brain damage is already irreversible…

  16. This is like Q-tips. The manufacturer swears that no one puts them in their ears. It says right on the package not to put them in their ears.

    Apparently, they’re for arts and crafts projects, and for taking off makeup.

  17. Wow. I used to steal packages of those from my Mom and eat them by the handful. I thought they were candy and my mom was too stupid to realize they weren’t. But I’m glad no evil government types tried to stop me from poisoning myself.

  18. DESCRIPTION: Permanent ashen-gray discoloration of the skin, conjunctiva, and internal organs resulting from long over-exposure to silver. Usual course – acute; chronic.

    CAUSES:

    * absorption through skin
    * inhalation of dust fumes
    * accidental ingestion
    * abuse of silver nose drops
    * mining
    * silver plating
    * handling of metallic silver
    * christmas cookies!

    1. “abuse of silver nose drops”!?!?! What the heck is a silver nose drop??

  19. It’s been an hour and a half and no one has said “At least they aren’t making them out of corn syrup”? I’m disappointed.

    At least give me an “This is the kind of torte reform even Dave W. can get behind.”

  20. This is like Q-tips. The manufacturer swears that no one puts them in their ears. It says right on the package not to put them in their ears.

    …and let’s not even start with what all battery powered massage devices are really for.

  21. Meyer, those were both gems.

  22. …and let’s not even start with what all battery powered massage devices are really for.

    Getting cramps out of legs?

  23. …and let’s not even start with what all battery powered massage devices are really for.

    guess I shouldn’t have gotten one for the wife for xmas…

  24. …and let’s not even start with what all battery powered massage devices are really for.

    guess I shouldn’t have gotten one for the wife for xmas…

    Your worried about giving one to your wife? What I am I supposed to give my mom now? šŸ™

  25. …and let’s not even start with what all battery powered massage devices are really for.

    guess I shouldn’t have gotten one for the wife for xmas…

    You’re worried about giving one to your wife? What I am I supposed to give my mom now? šŸ™

  26. I know I’ve eaten some of these things — not a lot, but some — as a kid.

    And this morning I threw up a little.

    Coincidence? I think not.

  27. To be fair, there is a reported case of a guy in Japan who developed argyria from eating dragees, but as I recall he regularly ate large quantities of them for years before onset.

  28. What are silver nose drops? It seems like I’m missing out on all of the poisonous consumer items.

  29. What a weird story! I wonder how much of this little crusade is just an easy way for Mark Pollock to sue his way into a fortune of settlements and legal bills?

    Although it’s still permissible to sell drag?es in California, Pollock’s sledgehammer approach has had a chilling effect. McCormick Inc. and General Mills agreed to pull the product off the market in California and pay a penalty?”I don’t know, I think it might have been $100,000″?to Solano County.

    Why should anyone pay a penalty to Solano County as part of a settlement for selling something that isn’t illegal?

  30. guess I shouldn’t have gotten one for the wife for xmas…

    Yeah, she might chip her teeth.

  31. But poison cookies? What a way to go.

    This almost steals the thunder of my evil cupcakes, but not quite.

  32. What flavor are the evil cupcakes? Do they have Dragees?

  33. All these questions…no cupcakes for you!

  34. “Mark Pollock is a…lover of fine food.”

    Well, that explains the infatuation with little gingerbread men.

  35. I take that to mean they’re yellow cake with buttercream frosting. Truly evil indeed.

  36. I take that to mean they’re yellow cake with buttercream frosting. Truly evil indeed.

    Also, they steal your soul.

  37. “What are silver nose drops? It seems like I’m missing out on all of the poisonous consumer items.”

    Because of silver’s antiseptic properties, it was apparently not uncommon in the 1950s and earlier for doctors to prescribe nasal sprays containing colloidal silver. It was discontinued because it was discovered that silver really works only as a topical antiseptic (which is why it is still used in certain treatments today).

  38. Does anybody else remember those C-Silver ads from the 1990s? I seem to recall some congressman or governor or something turned himself blue with that shit.

  39. I think you may be remembering this clown

  40. So, um, what’s an amount that’s dangerous? How many of these would you have to eat over, say, thirty years to have, I dunno, a 50% chance or better chance of getting poisoned?

  41. Yup, that’s the one. And people wonder why nobody takes the LP seriously.

  42. So, um, what’s an amount that’s dangerous? How many of these would you have to eat over, say, thirty years to have, I dunno, a 50% chance or better chance of getting poisoned?

    It’s pretty close to, “There’s water in tea, so if you drink enough you could drown.”

  43. Ha! Here’s something really ironic: My mother, the same woman who shunned me from eating the silver decoration balls, pushes all sorts of new-agey vitamin supplements on me that contain silver. In that case, I guess it’s back to eating dragees for me. No wonder my skin’s so ashy looking.

  44. What about Goldschlager? Shouldn’t he be going after that, since it has gold in it? Yeah, it’s a miniscule amount, but if you drank enough of it over a long enough period of time, you might get poisoned!

  45. Well, I think grylliade just pointed the asshole lawyer in the direction of his next gravy train.

    I don’t even like Goldschlager, but I might go buy a bottle because it has heavy metals in it, just to even things up.

    Oh, and next time I see dragees on my food, I’m chowin’ ’em down, baby.

  46. I think you may be remembering this clown

    Oh, yes… the libertarian candidate for office who looked like a little red X.

  47. GINGERBREAD MAN: I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you!

    SOMEONE ELSE: Ha! You don’t have the balls!

  48. “I think you may be remembering this clown”

    *clicks link*

    *read article*

    *does a Google Images search on his name*

    Oh for fuck’s sake!

  49. It’s a shame the pic at CNN won’t come up. I remember seeing this guy at the time. He is literally about 2 shades lighter than a Smurf. Made me want to get my mulatto freak on.

  50. Just for smurfette:

    Clicky Clicky

  51. Sorry, mediageek, but when anyone says “Just for [whoever]”, I’m going to click, too.

    All Your Base Are Belong To Teh Libertarians .

  52. Ronald Fisher: We gotta find ourselves a Smurfette.

    Sean Smith: Smurfette?

    Ronald Fisher: Yeah, not some tight-ass Middlesex chick, right? Like this cute little blonde that will get down and dirty with the guys. Like Smurfette does.

  53. So is it Stevo Darko now?

  54. …Or is it Stevely Darko?

  55. I never knew that silver was poisonous. Does this mean we shouldn’t use silver-plated utensils? How about wearing silver jewelry? I’m glad I went with the ceramic filling that one time I got a cavity filled.

  56. …Or is it Stevely Darko?

    He’s hung on to that “Darkly” for a long time now. I mean “Threadkiller” only lasted for a few months, I think. How long has it been with “Darkly” now–gotta be over a year, no?

  57. Umm, this guy is smoking more crack than Michelle Malkin and Hugo Chavez combined.

    From the Dartmouth Toxic Metals Research Program:
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~toxmetal/TXQAag.shtml
    (Rearranged for readibility)

    ============================================
    Is silver harmful to humans?

    Trace amounts of silver are in the bodies of all humans and animals. We normally take in between 70 and 88 micrograms of silver a day, half of that amount from our diet. Humans have evolved with efficient methods of dealing with that intake, however. Over 99 percent is readily excreted from the body.

    Unlike other metals such as lead and mercury, silver is not toxic to humans and is not known to cause cancer, reproductive or neurological damage, or other chronic adverse effects. Nor has normal day-to-day contact with solid silver coins, spoons or bowls been found to affect human health. This is because solid silver is almost completely biologically inert, and even if ingested, would pass through the human body without being absorbed into tissues.
    ==============================================

    Colloidial Silver (Mr. Blue Man) is not inert and I am not sure of the Dragees but I am pretty danged sure that you would have to eat a truckload to come anywhere near the toxicity level.

  58. Trace amounts of silver are in the bodies of all humans and animals. We normally take in between 70 and 88 micrograms of silver a day, half of that amount from our diet. Humans have evolved with efficient methods of dealing with that intake, however. Over 99 percent is readily excreted from the body.

    Ah! That explains that sparkly, glittery effect whenever I … never mind.

    By the way, I think I started posting here in October 2004 and assumed the “Darkly” moniker on November 17 or 18, 2004.

  59. When I first arrived in the U.S. from Russia (I was seven at the time), our landlord’s son had baked me a chocolate cake by way of welcome. It had those little silver balls on top. I asked my parents if they were okay to eat and was told that, since they were on a cake, they were probably edible. So I thought, “What an amazing country where not only do they have more than 3 flavors of ice cream, they even make candies that look like metal!”

    I ate them and haven’t been the same since.

  60. What about Goldschlager? Shouldn’t he be going after that, since it has gold in it? Yeah, it’s a miniscule amount, but if you drank enough of it over a long enough period of time, you might get poisoned!

    Comment by: grylliade at December 20, 2005 05:18 PM

    At $500+ per ounce you might get smelted!

  61. jesus fucking christ!!!

    stan jones, you are why we have democrats.

    my god and it is in manotana!!! the state is ripe for libertarian conquest and who do we get….stan “fucking idiot” jones.

  62. The LD50 (lethal to 50% of population) single dose of silver is between 50-500mg/kg of body weight, as silver nitrate.

    What is really quite amusing to me is that the colloidal silver nutjobs who self-inflicted argyria on themselves then “expose” that silver in their skin to sunlight, and it darkens just as it would in a photographic negative. One treatment for the argyric discoloration is a topical application of 4% hydroquinone, which should get a chuckle out of anyone used to playing with black-and-white developer.

  63. “Ronald Fisher: We gotta find ourselves a Smurfette.

    Sean Smith: Smurfette?

    Ronald Fisher: Yeah, not some tight-ass Middlesex chick, right? Like this cute little blonde that will get down and dirty with the guys. Like Smurfette does.”

    i always thought the “darkly” in “stevo darkly” refered to the philip k dick novel.

    i have no idea what the “darkly” k dick refers to.

  64. The 56-year-old Pollock speaks with confident authority. Although he is an unreconstructed radical, he looks great in a lawyer’s crisp striped dress shirt, dress pants and tie. A former SDS member, he entered law school at the University of La Verne to help cleanse the system from within.

    His younger radical self would be proud to know that he’s taking THE MAN *DOWN* by… removing GINGERBREAD EYEBALLS. Wow, that’s really cleansing “the system” from within. His next project: to get the “safe for” age on a game of “Sorry” lowered from 6 and up to 5 1/2 and up. Remember kids, The Revolution will not be televised!

    Can I keep my libertarian credentials if I think it’s OK to require stuff (that a reasonable person would perceive as being) sold as food be edible?

    Gotta agree with Warren here.

  65. lowered from 6 and up to 5 1/2 and up.

    Oops, I’m a little drunk. Of course that should read “raised to 6 1/2.”

    Nothing spoils a joke like a typo. The written equivelent of “no wait, let me start over, it’s a *duck*, a rabbi, and a priest that walk into the bar…”

  66. Mmmm gingerbread-Ok, I’ll step away from the key-board and crash.

  67. Smacky:

    I get it.

    And Donnie Darko is one hell of a movie.

  68. The guy’s proof sounds lousy. Courts are very transparent, which makes them more excellent than anything else going in this unLibertarian world. If you are a foolish plaintiff (or defendant), that will show right up.

    Nevertheless, it is too difficult for me to check to see whether any Reason writers have gotten money from McCormack’s. So maybe the guy does have a case and Reason is just spinning here. The details matter. Although small disclaimers are a powerful weapon at the margin, this may or may not be an appropriate margin to disclaim over. Cause its sprinkles and sprinkles do tend to put your guard down cause, in turn, they are so festive. It seems like the other big factor would be how many does a kid need to ingest before bad things happen.

    If the courts do take these off the market, then they will be as sorely missed as coins embedded in the candy bars and Red No. 5 in the M&Ms like they used to do. Both these bygones are, of course, still all the rage in libertarian No. Marianas Is.

  69. Is this in place of an aspartame (sp?) post?

  70. i always thought the “darkly” in “stevo darkly” refered to the philip k dick novel.

    i have no idea what the “darkly” k dick refers to.

    It’s an allusion to the passage from the Bible, “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” (I Cor. 13:12)

  71. i always thought the “darkly” in “stevo darkly” refered to the philip k dick novel.

    I can’t find the thread right now, but an H&R post referring to A Scanner Darkly somehow led to my current handle, but very indirectly.

    Hey! They are making a movie based on A Scanner Darkly — check out the freaky trailer at http://movies.yahoo.com/feature/ascannerdarkly.html

    i have no idea what the “darkly” k dick refers to.

    “Darkly K. Dick” would make a cool handle.

  72. I think there is some merit to Pollock’s cause.

    Ingesting silver is dangerous to your health, but the small amount of dragees a person would typically consume over a long period of time are not likely to cause harm.

    Dragees are just like candies. They taste sweet, and a child or adult not knowing any better could accidently consume too much.

    There is also the consideration that dragees might even be toxic to those who’ve already had exposure to dangerous amounts of silver, or are allergic to it. People who are already sick, and know that silver caused their sickness, still might not know that dragees contain silver, and so should be avoided. After all, there are many shiny, silver metals that are much cheaper than dragees. If you asked the typical citizen (or even a sufferer of heavy metal poisoning) whether he thought dragees were silver or some other metal or compound, it is highly probably he might think they were not silver.

    The use of dragees is reasonably distinct from the east-Indian use of silver and gold sheets placed on desserts. Nearly everyone who consumes such East Indian deserts knows such things are actually pure silver or pure gold, and so can avoid them if they need to. These are more than mere decoration: they are meant to signify wealth. Dragees, by contrast, are just anonymous, meaningless decoration.
    Furthermore, these sheets of silver and gold are inedible when stored by themselves, unlike draguees where the silver is always enclosing a highly edible sugar centre.

    I still don’t think dragees should be banned. But there should be some better notice on their containers about what exactly they contain, and to warn about children ingesting too many at once.

  73. “Darkly K. Dick” would make a cool handle.

    Darkly K. Dick, Private Eye. er, something.

    I said those Indian sheets signified “royalty” but maybe crf was right…perhaps it was “wealth”.

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