#43 – “Food”

UK playground food folklore:

Green crisps are poisonous.

Eat apple or orange pips, and a tree will start to grow inside you.

Blue Smarties make you hyperactive.

Swallow gum and it will stay in your guts for two months, maybe even wrapping itself around an organ.


Everyone knows it’s true. Passed down from class to class, from year to year; the cold hard facts about the perils of what lurks in your lunchbox, or what you’ve managed to sneak into your pockets for playtime. 

Green crisps are poisonous, eat them and you will die! Or, at least, end up with a belly-ache.

The reason some crisps end up with a green edge isn’t mold or fungus, it’s actually because the potato which they’ve been made out of hasn’t been properly “earthed up”. Parts of the spud exposed to sunlight as they grow turn green because of chlorophyll in the plant. Chlorophyll can contain a chemical for solanine, which is the same toxin produced by deadly nightshade, BUT you would have to eat a whole family pack of entirely green crisps before you felt any real ill effects. 

Spit out the pips when you’re eating an apple or orange, or else you’ll end up with a tree growing inside you.

Obviously, you won’t, but it is worth noting that there have been cases where people have been found to have fir trees and peas growing in their lungs! Apple seeds, if chewed produce (a tiny amount of) hydrogen cyanide, which starts to become risky if you eat an awful lot of them. We’re talking like five or more apple’s worth, consumed in a single sitting for a child though. Orange pips are harmless and actually pretty good for you, but if you chew them they taste very, very bitter. 

Blue Smarties were banned for a time because they contained a colouring agent which was found to cause hyperactivity in children who ate them. 

Blue Smarties (first introduced in 1988) disappeared from packs between early 2006 until mid-2008, being replaced with white ones. Why? Because in 2006 manufacturer Nestlé decided to remove all artificial colouring from the sweets. The problem was, even though they found a way to replicate all the other colours using natural alternatives, they couldn’t get the blue right. They cracked it in 2008 though, and since then blue Smarties get their colour from a seaweed called Spirulina. Before 2006, blue Smarties were coloured with a synthetic dye called Brilliant Blue FCF (also known as E133) which, although not proven to cause hyperactivity, does have the capacity for inducing allergic reactions in some people, especially asthmatics. 

Swallow chewing-gum or bubble-gum, and it will sit in your stomach or intestines for weeks, months, maybe even years. Even worse, the sticky, stretchy stuff might just wrap itself around some of your internal organs while it’s in there.

Why shouldn’t you swallow gum? Because it’s made to be chewed over and over and to not break down in the process of chewing. So, it’s a choking hazard. Obviously. Gum is also nigh-on impossible to digest, but that doesn’t mean it will just sit in your stomach or guts indefinitely. Much like sweetcorn, gum (in most cases) will make an all but intact reappearance next time the consumer visits the toilet. That said, swallow a lot of gum over a long period, and you are (understandably) going to get a bit clogged up…

Folklore is about stories told and re-told, exaggerated, embellished, and improved upon by generation after generation but, as the above illustrates, there is always a kernel of truth in even the simplest and silliest sounding tale.