… and a Christmas cracker:

What is the connection between a bar of Cadburys Dairy Milk chocolate …


and the diatom Asterionella formosa, which we met in the post of 7 July?


In that post back in July I also introduced you to Arthur Hill Hassall, a pioneer of algal studies in the middle of the nineteenth century.   Hassall’s interest in algae was motivated by the search for the cause (and, thereby, a cure) for the cholera epidemics that were sweeping through Europe at the time.   His interest in public health gradually overtook his interest in algae and, by the 1870s, he was focussing on the widespread problem of food adulteration.  Many food manufacturers of the time were using cheap fillers such as flour and even sawdust, to increase the apparent quantity of more expensive items.   In 1876 Hassall published an important book, Food. Its Adulterations and the Methods for their Detection.  The subject of food adulteration was widely discussed in the press of the time, with Hassall regarded as one of the leading experts in the field.  His work came to the attention of a Quaker family in Birmingham called Cadbury, who were trying to establish a business selling chocolate.  They had invested in new approach to manufacturing chocolate.  Previously, starch and other fillers had to be added to mask the flavour of the cocoa butter but their new press removed this cocoa butter, thus removing the need to add starch.   The widespread concern about food adulteration, spearheaded by Hassall’s investigations, meant that they could market their new Cocoa Essence as “Absolutely Pure.  Therefore Best.”   The success of the product, in turn, helped transform this small family business into a worldwide company.

Happy Christmas.


Deborah Cadbury (2010).  Chocolate Wars: From Cadbury to Kraft: 200 years of Sweet Success and Bitter Rivalry.  Harper Collins, London.

Gray, E.A. (1983).  By Candlelight.  The Life of Dr Arthur Hill Hassall 1817-94.   Robert Hale, London.

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