Ethylene oxide in food in Britain

This bit of Dutch news caught my attention:

Before you start worrying on the basis of what I am reporting below, stop worrying. It’s good to keep an eye on these developments, however.

The Dutch and the rest of the EU are having lots of product recalls – FOOD product recalls – because it contains (too much) ethylene oxide. It’s likely coming from India.

That makes it probable that this is happening in Britain too.

Think sesame seed, cookies, ginger, vermicelli, food supplements and tomato sauces that contain locust bean gum as thickener (E410). Dried shallots, rice and tea, pasta and pies are also on the list of products that can have this contamination.

A quick web search mostly turned up food trade news that focused on what’s happening abroad.

This does not:

Turns out that the UK opted for withdrawal of sales of products but no recalls.

Ethylene oxide is used to disinfect food stuffs as it kills bacteria, fungi and viruses. (Fungi are eukaryotes, just like humans. That always makes it a bit more likely that a toxic compound can also affect humans, as opposed to when it kills only viruses and/or bacteria. So do aflatoxins – toxins produced by fungi – and this is part of the reason why compounds like this one are used.)

Food Watch motivated the EU into regulating ethylene oxide and as of this summer, all foods containing ore than 0.1 mg/kg must no longer be sold and if sold, recalled. Last year, however, also saw product recalls.

There is no acute toxicity, but the cumulative effect of the consumption of ethylene oxide is not well known and may lead to tumour growth in the stomach.

It’s likely already been in our food for a long time. We did not pay attention to it until recently.

Here is the WHO’s take:


Further reading:



(Like cyanide, ethylene oxide also occurs in cigarette smoke in small quantities.)

BBC documentary maker also warned about the danger from incels a few years ago

Two posts ago, in which I talk about finally realising what I have been dealing with, I included an ITV program in which “Eamonn and Ruth” talked about the topic with two experts.

Now I see that there was a BBC documentary a few years ago.

This is not just about violence against women. This is about violence against men who live with women, too. The “Chads”, not just the “Stacys” and not just feminists either.

In the above video, you can hear this 16-year-old English boy saying that in the west “we cultivate the evil side of women”.

Holy crap, that is seriously creepy. But yeah, England is deeply misogynistic and many boys get fed with a hatred of women at a very young age, before they’re able to form independent opinions. When boys under the age of 10 or 12 can yell “Suck my dick!” at women the age of their grandmothers and grab their penis at the same time, you know that they got this from someone else.

Below is the BBC documentary (requires a TV licence, so it will cost you £159 to watch this legally, unless, lol, you want to watch it in black and white).

This podcast video does not require a TV licence:

The problem with these guys is NOT that women are horrible or that these men are not physically attractive or that that they are “genetically inferior” as many of them seem to believe.

It’s the negative views they hold of themselves. It’s also often their negativity in general.

It could well be that quite a few of these guys have Asperger’s, I thought, but I found it very tricky to say something like that, off the cuff, because of the risk of perpetuating existing stigmas or creating new ones.

However, one of the people interviewed in the BBC documentary mentions “Asperger’s” himself.

Why do these people feel that random women who they’ve never met or interacted with have caused their lives to be so miserable that they feel that they need to take revenge out on these women? It makes no sense.

I have to do some thinking now about what all of this means for my life. It concerns me that these men seem to feel that women like me are responsible for everything that happens and has happened in their lives.

I’ve panicked a few times and I’ve also been ranting and raving about English people a few times in response to what’s been happening to me because it came across as quite quintessentially English to me. But it looks like it wasn’t. It’s merely been a matter of me having been in the wrong spots at the wrong time, it seems, whether online or IRL.

I’ve said a few times before that there is a large group of people out there whose healthcare and support needs are not being met (and who take this out on people like me, which is how I got into all of this in the first place; after all, I am an earth, marine and environmental scientist by nature).

Women in geology

Listen to what Jane Willenbring has to say. She’s a full professor at Stanford now.

I remember reading a more or less similar story by a female scientist when I was in grad school. She wrote something about growing a thick skin and becoming insensitive to pain.

The male geologists around me – there was only one female; she was an associate professor in sedimentology – did not seem to understand. One commented critically and seemed to blame that woman. Said that it was more or less like saying that she was a masochist, then. Maybe I misunderstood, but I remember it because the harsh criticism shocked me a little at the time. I said nothing. I should at least have asked him to explain.

What else do you do, then? Give up? Never.

Does that make you a masochist? No way.

Things have changed. But not enough yet.

She’s a full professor at Stanford now.

Why it’s special to be Dutch – part 2


(Keep reading.)


I just walked past the lorry of Janssen again, literally around the corner. If I walk around the corner in the other direction, I also often run into them. Always makes me smile.

‘t komt goed.

I have on occasion yelled “Hee! Kaaskop!” at a guy in the van, instantly conveying that we’re fellow Dutch people. Cheese heads. Even though I am not literally a cheese head (blond and from the central part of the Netherlands). And even though there are all sorts of English-language sites that state that “kaaskop” means “stupid person”. It’s more or less the same as “yankee”, I suppose. Kaaskop.

(A funny coincidence is that “yankee” is also Dutch, as it comes from the first name “Jan-Kees”.)

Janssen is a family business that was started in 1985, with only one lorry. They now operate three cooled articulated lorries that provide potted plants and flowers to 140 florists all over the south of England.

With a Florimark Good Trade Practice (GTP) certificate! The certificate is given on the basis of among other things social (societal), environmental and quality requirement and also looks at the level of cooperation within the (product) chain and staff treatment, for example.

They even featured in a BBC documentary. (See below.) Not bad, eh?

Voelt grappig genoeg als “even een poepie laten ruiken” – an expression that probably explains everything about England versus the Netherlands, lol – want wij kaaskoppen zijn toch wel verdomd goed in een hoop dingen. We staan ook aan de wereldtop van waterbeheer en dat soort zaken, wat we recent – zij het op tragische wijze – weer eens hebben kunnen zien.

Would an English person ever understand why a Dutch person would express impressing others with their skills and accomplishments as “letting them smell a fart”?


Maybe this will finally be able to convey to some the locals why I often think that they’re behaving like silly Victorian drama queens straight out of some stuffy family drama on TV. See, the Dutch never get their knickers in a twist. Never.

As far as I know, only the English have this habit of getting terribly upset about things that aren’t important at all. (Think Mrs Bucket.) I do fully confess that it can sometimes be very confusing to a Dutch person living here, lol. (FIRE? WHAT FIRE, WHERE?!) It gets really complicated at times because I am ascribed similar properties, of course, likely even more so because of my age. But I am Dutch! And I was used to hanging out with young people!

It’s like a dance, isn’t it? LOL! Cultural differences. Never a dull moment. Duh!

Now how do you put roses flown across a distance of 4000 miles to the UK into a sustainability perspective? It’s multifaceted. Because those roses also support people. (That too, is multifaceted because human tribes that do not adhere to our consumerist standards may in reality be so much richer than people like you and me can imagine. GDP has become a measure of toxicity, hasn’t it?)

Personally, I’ve never been that much into roses. They’re a little too stuck-up for me. Too… too. Too… inauthentic? But some of them, agreed, are lovely. They’re probably not the roses you’ll find in palaces and at weddings. They’re simple and authentic. At least, that’s how they come across to me. I run into them on walks.

They’re simply there, like the lovely fragrances of the food that a person unknown to me but somewhere close to me is cooking right now that are wafting through the open window into my little office where I am typing this right now.

You can’t import that.

Ah, flowers!

Ah, what IS that great food that I am smelling that probably involves lots of potatoes? It smells SO GOOD and that smell, it’s free. It doesn’t cost me a penny to enjoy it.

Why it’s special to be Dutch

I had no idea that this is typically Dutch, but yes, all week, I’ve been looking forward to a Zoom call I will have this weekend and this increased during the week as I added positive things to share to my list.

I now can say that making these notes in my agenda about things happening in the future probably makes me look like a control freak to the uninitiated.

I may also now understand why life can feel dull and hopeless to me in certain other places.

Is this a very un-English thing to do, then?



Emotions, after all, must be pushed down as much and far as possible and the joy of looking forward to something does not fit within that stiff upper lip habit (which apparently was inspired by the stoics, which I never would have guessed, but then, I’ve never been good at guessing and prefer hard cold facts and lush flowery emotions).

“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez, singer, songwriter, musician, and activist

Voorpret has a dynamic feel to it.

Food for thought

“your brain is automatically constructing emotions out of a set of ingredients and you have control over seeding your brain with those ingredients to make emotions more automatically in an effortless way@LFeldmanBarrett What are the ingredients ? Are they finite or infinite ?”

Lisa Feldman Barrett:
“Three ingredients are sense data within your body (interoception), sense data from the outside world (exteroception), and your past experience (concepts).”

Here’s how I interpret that, without having looked into it any further.

The first one is for example that if you sit on a chair all day long, you should go for a walk. The third one may require some thinking and perhaps the decision to adapt your ideas. But there may often be very little that you can do about the second. That is not always true. If it’s noise, for example, you may be able to neutralise it with white noise.

Abundance. Immeasurable wealth. Human rights. Poverty.

This evening, I was suddenly reminded of what my life was like a long time ago, in the early 1980s, when I was working in tourism and hospitality in Amsterdam. I wasn’t making tons of money but I sure was making a lot more than what one third of England’s population needs to get by on, for whom life is mostly a cruel punishment for having been born. But that’s beside the point. Or is it? We’ll see.

I wore Cool Cat jogging pants from Fiorucci in the Kalverstraat and got to enjoy tons of music and dance performances as well as modern art exhibitions.

If you work in tourism and hospitality, you work shifts.

One of the best things in my life, one of my nicest memories, but I have plenty more, was to stop by at a particular “avondwinkel” on my way back home, often exhausted. It was really wonderful to stop by there on your last evening shift – get out of the tram or bus and then hop back on again or, hey, walk home if it was after midnight after I had moved from the “Gooi” to “De Pijp” – and take some goodies with you to enjoy when you got home. Utter bliss! That stuff was so good. It made you feel that it was really really GOOD to be ALIVE.

It was called Heuft, I think, just around the corner from the Vrijheidslaan. In the Rijnstraat.

They had the most delicious foods!

That kind of experience, that’s something that, I reckon, 90% of Brits have never had and will never have.

I can’t put this into words well enough so that you’d understand.

Heuft still exists, but I know it isn’t what it used to be. I know because I stopped by again, also quite a long time ago by now, and even then, it no longer was what it used to be. These days… it makes me weep… it seems to sell burgers and French fries. Okay, they’re home-made. But… oh man, you guys who go there now have no idea what the place used to be like, in spite of the fact that it still sells champagne.

If you’re from Portsmouth and want at least some idea of what I may be talking about, consider that little precious treasure we lost when Le Café Parisien (Lord Montgomery Way) closed. It served very different foods but what they served was delicious and the ambience superb. Le Café Parisien was one of the reasons why I moved to Portsmouth. There is nothing else like it, not in Portsmouth, not in Southampton. If you’re from Portsmouth, and you’ve never sat down there and ate some of its goodies, you’re poor.

The News called it “popular among students” when it closed, indicating that the journalist who wrote it was sadly clueless about the place or clueless about food or was living in poverty.

It was that place that gave Portsmouth its cosmopolitan allure.

Portsmouth University held its Café Jurist meetings there and it was also where people flocked to Café Scientifique meetings (both held after regular opening hours).

Here’s MIGRANT and human rights lawyer Conor Gearty (LSE), and yes, I attended that event and yes, he’s been one of my heroes ever since. That guy rocks. Boris Johnson? David Cameron? Theresa May? Priti Patel? Not so much…

Café Jurist – ‘In or Out in the European Convention on Human Rights?’ by Professor Conor Gearty from Strong Island Media on Vimeo.

Here is another one, one that I did not attend. (I was unwell, I think. A bit of flu or something.)

Café Jurist – ‘Social Inequality and Justice’ by Professor Jonathan Wolff from Strong Island Media on Vimeo.

What is autism? What is neurodiversity?

It had never occurred to me that there are many people out there who have never even heard the words “autism” and “autistic”, let alone anything more about neurodiversity, or the word “neurodiversity”?

You’d think that particularly educated people or people who call themselves educated would have… But no, not necessarily.

It’s simple. Just like there are naturally taller and naturally shorter and average-height people and thin people and stocky people and people with blue eyes and people with brown and grey eyes and just like some people love beer while others exclusively prefer gin or wine or a martini, and some people become bakers or food scientists, others bricklayers or architects, some people walk in small steps or slowly while others walk fast and in large strides, people’s brains differ too.

It means different people have different abilities because their brains have different neural networks, different specialisations. It’s why some people are artists or mathematicians and others stock shelves or deliver packages or manage businesses.

Creativity and talent often have a lot to do with neurodiversity.

Autistic people are never dull and dull people are never autistic or capable of bringing entertainment into the world. Dull people can be highly efficient and reliable.

Thus we end up with a natural balance in the world that helps keep everyone happy. If only we give each other enough space, enough room to be who we are without being pushed into the tight corsets of the misconceptions put into the world by the idea of eugenics. That there is such a thing as an ideal human being. Like, say, a mass-produced perfectly smooth coffee beaker.

Neurodiversity is not binary. We all occupy a unique spot in this multidimensional space. One of my neighbours is slightly narcissistic, for example. It makes that person look charming, fascinating and interesting to almost everyone.

There is nothing wrong with that.

It can also create a tendency to want to hurt needle or annoy others through the spoken word – out of the unacknowledged vulnerability that underlies narcissism which fuels the need to control others – and that can intimidate others. The person’s partner or the person’s colleagues, for example. An example of what I mean is that, if for example, you are an equality campaigner, such a person may speak in a negative tone about “chavs” to you. For the sole purpose of annoying you… and hopefully drawing you into an argument. Or you may hear such a person talk negatively about you to a complete stranger, within earshot, again for no other purpose than annoying you.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s life. We all have our pluses and minuses. It’s what keeps life interesting.

Portsmouth’s gulls are tripping

To my astonishment, there were at least two dozen gulls out here earlier today, if not more.

I wondered what they were after.

When I walked downtown later, I spotted a flying ant. Might that be it? The air certainly had that “flying ant” quality to it.

Do these insects prefer to land or, wait, maybe hatch in grass fields? No. Turns out that ants grow wings when they want to mate. O-kay. There you go. Wouldn’t you wish that you could do something like that?

I just searched on “Do gulls eat flying ants?” and I found…

Yep, gulls love them and they trip on them.

They get slightly tipsy on them!

See? Got more in common with birds than you knew.

Autism and the country you happen to have been born in

I’ve recently been reading up quite a bit and thinking about autism and I am struck by how much better autistic people are off in my home country and how unlucky it is to be autistic and in the southeast of England, or perhaps the entire south of England.

What am I talking about?

Honesty and directness.

The Dutch are so much into honesty and integrity that living in the Netherlands is bound to be much easier for autistic people than in England where many people, generally speaking, see nothing wrong with lying. We see this in the UK government almost non-stop at the moment.

Americans too are “a little bit” more into honesty and integrity than the English – again, generally speaking – and that must make life easier for many autistic people.

The Dutch are very direct and so are Americans, but the Victorian age caused a lot of havoc in England of which we can still see the results today. In the stiff upper lip, for example, and the emotional stunting it has led to.

The often highly convoluted way in which English people communicate is often highly frustrating for Dutch people.

If I understand it more or less accurately how many autistic people tick, then living in southern England has to be incredibly tough on them.

It does not and should not have to be this way.

I think that many English people have forgotten all about integrity and have forgotten what sophistication really is. Insulting people in a convoluted way and lying a lot is merely immature and a sign of weakness. Making fun of foreigners who have trouble wrapping their heads around mysterious England is also not necessarily a sign of great savvy.

Trumpian values are becoming the rule in England.

Such a minefield. So much damage.

Did you know that the Dutch are often called “naive” behind their backs in international settings? Because of their penchant for honesty and integrity (and the resulting high level of trust). But it is appreciated highly too, at times. Remember that MH17 speech by Frans Timmermans?

Dutch humour. (Limburg aan zee, dat was ooit echt zo, voordat er mensen op aarde waren)

This is a Dutch parody holiday commercial for “South Limburg on Sea” put together with video fragments of the recent flooding.

Auw hoer = Limburg dialect for 😲

Mosse kieke = dialect for “look at that!”

(both about the fish – trout? bream? – in the street)

Laat ‘m gaan! = Dutch for “let him go!”

(about the eel in the street)

My youngest sister’s home and cherished lovely-looking business are located within a few metres of the Meuse river and she had to evacuate. I am so happy for her that the local water level stayed just under the predicted level.

E-mail to The News with several cc-s: Trashing Travellers also hurts Portsmouth.

Dear editor,

I recently came upon an article in your publication that was so biased and irresponsible that it shocked me. I considered reporting it to IPSO right away but decided to contact you first. I am copying IPSO in on this e-mail, however, and I am also copying in the leader of Portsmouth City Council (PCC), the local Green Party and the MP for Portsmouth South as well as representatives of the groups of people who were disadvantaged in the article.

Why was this biased reporting irresponsible? Because it risked whipping up aggression against one of the most abused minorities in the UK, people who are abused merely because they lead a different lifestyle from the majority. That description – leading a different lifestyle from the majority – also applies to the leader of Portsmouth City Council. Would you have written about him in a similarly biased way? I doubt it.

But the way he lives his life was considered a crime until fairly recently. In addition, he has a mild invisible so-called “disability” (according to what he said to me during a conversation we had in 2019). It is often forgotten but all three groups of people (that is, Roma and Gypsies, technically not Travellers, along with gay people and people with disabilities) were also hunted and “exterminated” by the Nazis in WWII. So why don’t you paint Portsmouth’s City Council Leader with the same brush that you used for the Travellers?

I have no choice but to conclude that you engaged in blatant discrimination of an often persecuted minority, a group that Home Secretary Priti Patel essentially plans to criminalise in their entirety, sadly enough, something that various organizations such as Docs Not Cops and MedAct are greatly concerned about.

“Even the mildest otherisation primes people for aggression,” Oxford neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor wrote in her book “Cruelty. Human evil and the human brain.” You did more than that. That makes your reporting irresponsible.

The article in question is this:

It was followed by this:

It concerns a small group of Travellers (also known as Pavees or Mincéirs, so I understand) who were parked on a triangle of low-lying council-owned land here in Portsmouth right next to a very busy through-road from which commuters could see them. I had spotted them too. There was no concern in the article as to whether there was any flooding on the land in view of the recent rains. Instead, it mentioned rubbish.

When I went to the site today, I discovered not only that the Travellers are gone, but also that there are very good other reasons why you must publish a balanced follow-up article to retain your credibility as an independent reliable and professionally responsible local news source.

Rubbish left behind (photos enclosed; taken on 1 August 2021)

I spotted three main kinds of rubbish on the site in question:

  • Irresponsibly animal-unfriendly rubbish deliberately left behind by the “Stop Aquind” activities
  • Small mountains of garden waste
  • Packaging of a Bestway Lay-Z-Spa and a metal file cabinet, as part of or deposited before the garden waste

PCC’s amateurish response to the group of Travellers

PCC sent the Anti-Social Behaviour unit over. This is not what a responsible city council does. Even though PCC apparently has no specialised unit for Traveller matters, sending the Anti-Social Behaviour unit over is offensive and not aimed at engaging but a hostile act. The way the majority of us are living is very unhealthy, but nowhere have I read that these Travellers were going around knocking on people’s doors in Portsmouth, telling them to stop living in their indoor environments, often contaminated with a large level of toxic chemical compounds that can come from cookware, cleaning products, candles, their furniture and many other items and also often laden with mould spores. Many Travellers, so I understand, also consider the way we mainstream folks live rather dirty because many of us keep animals inside our homes. They leave us in peace. They cause no problems. They stand on a site for a short while and then they’re gone again, like a flock of migrating birds that lands for a sip of water and a few days of repose before continuing their travels.

If this has not persuaded you yet to change your views and portrayal of Travellers, then consider the following.

It has been mentioned in a TV documentary by ITV and I also know from my own experience of 12+ years in Portsmouth that Portsmouth has a problem with excessive insularity and often presents itself in a hostile manner to strangers. We’ve had many fights in Portsmouth recently, some with up to 200 people. Because of the tensions caused by the pandemic, more of this kind of trouble among young people can be expected throughout the UK for a while, not just in Portsmouth. Perhaps Portsmouth is particularly vulnerable in this area, however. In short, the last thing we need is more hostility. We must not fan these fires.

As the City Council Leader recently stated, he is very happy that we will soon have new cruise ships moor here and he would like to see these cruise ship passengers enjoy Portsmouth. More fights do not fit into that scenario. That said, these cruise ship passengers are often “rich” older Americans who are not interested in keeping up appearances (rich from a UK point of view, where 30% of the population lives in poverty and 90% of the population is not immensely well-to-do either). They are also often scientists, retired or not, which is another group of people who are not very concerned with what they look like, perhaps even more so if they’re slightly older.

These cruise passengers, in other words, are often people who may stand out like sore thumbs to many of the locals and many of the locals may mistake them for very poor people and (illegal) migrants. How do I know that? Because I have friends and colleagues who go on such cruises. When I picked two of them up at a cruise terminal in Southampton a few years ago, I was a little bit concerned that they might get hassled in Southampton, because of the way they were dressed, the way they looked, white trainers and all, something that I too used to be oblivious to, things that people in places like Amsterdam pay absolutely no attention to. I was pleased that these two women, a microbiologist and her aunt, were travelling on to London the same day.

I hope I have gotten your attention now and have made my point sufficiently clear.

Below is a list of random links to articles I found about Travellers. There are other online resources too. I learned a few things from them. I imagine that you may too.

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Best regards,

Angelina Souren

the now empty spot in question is next to a very busy through-road, used mostly for commuting in and out of Portsmouth, even still fairly busy on weekends
plain silly, not necessarily harmful
garden waste