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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK
Jelly set for a hard time

Jelly: Has BSE killed a British love affair?
Once it was among the nation's favourite puddings.

Served with ice-cream or in a rabbit-shaped mould, it would have children screaming with delight at tea parties.

Jelly is very cheap and easy to make and kids, well certainly ours, love it

TV chef Anthony Worrall-Thompson
But now, it seems, Britain's love of jelly has gone decidedly wobbly.

Sales have plummeted and now a family pub chain has pulled the dessert from its menus.

The Brewers Fayre chain is no longer offering jelly on its menus because customer research found children aren't eating it.

Jelly is losing out to trendy ice creams
"While the research found a big demand for ice cream and donuts, the days of jellies as the first choice kids' dessert look seriously numbered," says the firm.

A spokeswoman says children are turning away from jelly partly because there are so many other goodies on offer, and partly because they don't see it at home.

"What with the mess and everything people aren't making jelly at home, because they're not having parties at home.

"So the kids don't come across it at home so they don't want it."

A brief history of jelly
Jelly has been eaten since Egyptian times
It is mentioned in early Anglo-Saxon recipe books
In the 19th Century, mass production began
Rowntree's made jelly in 1923
The first concentrated cube arrived in 1932
By the early 1990s UK sales hit 37m a year
The Brewers Fayre experience appears to be borne out by the sales figures - which dropped from 37m in 1992, to 32m by 1996, and are believed to have spiralled downwards since then.

But jelly has been championed by nutritional advisers and beauty consultants. The latter say it strengthens the nails.

"Jelly can be really good for you," says a spokeswoman from the British Nutrition Foundation.

"You can add lots of fruit to it, which adds to the five-pieces-a-day message, and then get kiddies to eat it.

Eat up, it might all be gone soon
"It's easy to slip down and is a good source of calories, so it's good for people recovering from illnesses.

"It also contains gelatin which does contain some protein - although I wouldn't recommend it as a major source."

Indeed, it is the gelatin issue which may explain jelly's apparent slump in popularity.

Gelatin is derived mainly from animal products - bones, cartilage, tendons and other tissues such as skin - and was cast in the spotlight during the BSE crisis.

You can't beat it served it with red fruits. Obviously, people just don't know how to make it properly

Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White
Ray Barrowdale, spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission says sales of all animal-derived products plummeted when the scare took hold a few years ago.

But he points out that people actually have nothing to fear from jelly on the supermarket shelves.

"Since March 1996, all British-derived gelatin has been banned. All ingredients for gelatin have been imported from abroad by law.

"It's a belt-and-braces approach," he says. "There is no known risk from gelatin, but it's an extra precaution, and as far as I know there are no plans to lift the ban".

The world's biggest jelly
Made in July 1997 at Blackpool Zoo, with the help of the Army's Logistic Corp. It was almost one metre tall and seven metres wide, and took about 12 hours to set with a blast chiller
Anyone still unnerved and still wanting to eat jelly could plump for one of the many vegetarian gelling agents on the market - including agar agar, carrageen and Gelozone.

A spokeswoman for the Vegetarian Society said agar agar was as easy to use as traditional gelatin, and could set quicker.

"Some fruits, such as pineapple, don't want to set with it, but you can get a beautiful strawberry or raspberry."

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