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BITES : The Tasting Panel That Wouldn't Die

November 30, 1995|CHARLES PERRY

The final act, as it were, in the long drama of the Tea Experts Panel was the one signed by President Clinton on Oct. 24. It was an appropriations bill for the Agriculture Department and related agencies, one of whose provisions abolished the 98-year-old tea-tasting board.

For decades, the Tea Experts Panel was considered a particularly blatant example of how government agencies tend to outlive their usefulness, but it survived every attempt to end it. In 1993, Clinton called it one of the things he intended to eliminate, and Congress voted to deny more money to the panel, which employed six outside experts and a Food and Drug Administration chemist. The panel continued to exist and hold annual tea tastings in Brooklyn, but the fee charged to the tea companies was raised.

This year, however, it was discovered that the government had continued to pay the $68,000 salary of Robert Dick, the FDA chemist who has run the board for the past 56 years, as well as costs for the panel's FDA staff and other expenses. In all, taxpayers were footing about two thirds of the program's $200,000 annual budget.

Finally, Sen. Hank Brown (R-Colo.) submitted an amendment to the Agriculture Department appropriations bill repealing the Import Tea Act itself, which had created the board. And that's the end of the Tea Experts Panel.

Or is it. . . ?

The Chocolate Diet

"The Chocolate Lovers' Diet: Enjoy Chocolate and Say Goodbye to Fat" (Noble Porter Press; $12.95) by Dr. Robert F. Joseph sounds too good to be true, and in a way it is: Joseph hasn't found a magic way to lose weight while eating all the chocolate you want. Basically, his plan is a pretty standard weight-reduction diet (lamb chop baked with oregano, chicken broth with tomato juice and a green onion) except that you eat half an ounce of chocolate 20 to 30 minutes before lunch and dinner.

The theory is that this will spoil your appetite, and you won't be tempted to go off your diet because you won't feel deprived, because chocolate gives a feeling of satisfaction. (Of course, if you can eat just half an ounce of chocolate and no more, you don't have a really severe eating problem.)

Joseph is a passionate defender of chocolate, anyway. Some might want to read the book for its ringing vindication of chocolate against charges that it causes allergic reactions, migraine, tooth decay, acne, cholesterol problems, heartburn and diarrhea in nursing babies.

Git Along, Little Shrimpies

Down the Wild South, viz. Ecuador, there's a new kind of cowboy, the larvero . Ecuadorean shrimp farmers have discovered that wild shrimp stock is heartier than the domestic varieties, so larveros seek their fortunes by rounding up the wild ones. One source estimates there are 100,000 larveros working the waters.

Mousetrap Menace

English tyrophiles (cheese lovers, that is) are worrying that traditional Cheddar is endangered by a governmental attempt to cut red tape that would remove regulations on the amount of fat and water in British cheeses, including Cheddar, Cheshire, Wensleydale and Stilton. "They could mean a return to 'mousetrap,' the poor-quality stuff that was all that people could get during the [Second World] War," said Peter Crowe of the British National Dairy Council last month.

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