Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Banned substances

Here’s something I didn’t know – Irn-Bru, a fizzy drink that is arguably more popular than water in its native Scotland, is, according to Wikipedia, banned in the US, because 2 of its ingredients have not been approved by the FDA. One of them is apparently carcinogenic, though, which may explain why.

Irn-Bru is the drink that famously held back McDonald’s chain expansion in Scotland – Scots simply would not visit Maccy D’s until Irn-Bru was available alongside Coke and the like. It has a place in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, alongside other more famous Scottish inventions such as the television.


  1. I’m sure I’ve seen it in Haq’s. My thinking is anything that Haqs sell is halal and therefore can’t be particularly bad for you, carcinogenic or not.

  2. I too came across this fact a few weeks back.
    Also, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate isn’t chocolate according to the FDA: ‘chocolate flavoured snack bar’

  3. Halal does not place any restrictions on additives as the system was devised well before such delights were invented. As Irn-Bru & most other soft drinks are completely devoid of animal derived ingredients they don’t need to worry about the rules on animal slaughter. The main restriction on whether or not a soft drink is Halal then becomes its ethanol content. Barrs got their flagship accredited with a moderate muslim authority last year.
    As for Ponceau 4R & Sunset Yellow FCF, they are both Azo Dyes associated with allergic reactions. I would like to see Barrs replace them with beta carotene (though that would increase the cost) however they are both approved by various bodies which are supposed to look after our health, the WHO’s JECFA, the European SCF & the UK’s FSA. Also the quantities used are remarkably small making the risks involved vanishingly remote. I certainly drink the stuff myself on occasion.

  4. It’s hardly bloody surprising, is it? You can imagine them running it past the FDA:
    Irn-Bru Executive: Hey, jimmy, we’d like tae sell our drink to all ye wee Yankee people, ye ken?
    FDA: Hey, that’s cool. What does it have in it?
    Irn-Bru Executive: Girders.
    FDA: Pardon me?
    Irn-Bru Executive: Are ye fuckin deef? It’s made in Scotland from girders. It even says it on the fuckin wee tinnie.
    FDA: Next, please.

  5. We can get IrnBru in Canada. I love it. I tried it for the first time in 2002 during a visit to Scotland.