How come Hollywood never makes disaster movies about culinary ingredients? Why don’t you ever see Chris Hemsworth fleeing a tidal wave of spilt lager? Where’s Bruce Willis, battling to prevent catastrophic explosions due to terrifyingly ripe cheeseboards? Whither Vin Diesel fighting to save our oceans from a deadly avalanche of syrup? As a Russian town found out last week after it was flooded by tropical juice, it’s definitely not because food and drink doesn’t lead to environmental crises. Here are a few of the worst culinary disasters ever to befall humanity.
The Sunny D river
If you’re going to produce a beverage that’s so violently orange that it risks dying toddlers the hue of an Oompa Loompa, you’d think that you’d ensure you had fairly rigorous safety checks to make sure that your drink isn’t going to poison nearby waterways. Apparently not, judging by the torrent of Sunny D that poured into a Somerset river in 2006, due to a broken underground storage tank. The River Parrett quickly turned the hue of synthetic custard, with dozens of fish left floating dead on the surface of the water-cum-breakfast-drink.
The Great Norwegian Goats’ Cheese Fire
If there’s ever a dinner party that you’d like to go with a bang, you may want to consider investing in some Brunost. In January 2013, a lorryload of the brown Norwegian goats’ cheese managed to spontaneously combust whilst being driven through a tunnel, causing a fire that raged for five days and did so much damage to the Brattli Tunnel at Tysfjord that it had to be closed for several weeks for repairs. The reason for its weird flammability? A high concentration of fat and sugar, which, according to a police officer local to the incident, can burn “almost like petrol if it gets hot enough”.
The London beer tsunami of 1814
Too much beer rarely leads to good things happening, but in 1814, it definitely did not go well. On October 17th, a chain reaction of rupturing beer vats in the Tottenham Court Road premises of the Horseshoe Brewery (now occupied by the Dominion Theatre) led to a tidal wave of nearly 1,500,000 litres of porter that destroyed two houses and the wall of a nearby pub. It submerged neighbouring streets, surged through a room of people gathered for a wake and ended up killing eight people. Still, the company involved managed to get a rebate on the tax they’d paid for the beer, so you know: small mercies.
The Honolulu molasses disaster
The biggest environmental disaster that Hawaii has ever faced? Black treacle. When a shipping company accidentally spilled 233,000 tonnes of black molasses into the harbour in Honolulu in 2013, they quickly realised that unlike oil – which can be cleaned up by skimming the surface of water – it’s nigh-on impossible to remove, as its extreme concentration makes it sink straight to the bottom of the ocean. It obliterated the oxygen content of the water, killing 25,000 fish and causing a member of Hawaii’s Environmental Health Division to call it: “the worst environmental damage to sea life that I have come across.” It also led to nearly two million dollars’ worth of fines for the company that caused the spillage – making the sugar tax look like small change.