Will Need To Sweet-Talk Your Way Out Of This One

, , , , , | Working | November 23, 2017

(It is about 30 years ago, when I am starting out as a food chemist, and I have been invited to give a talk to the FDA in Washington, DC. After the talk, I am shown around one of the labs where they are doing some toxicity testing on aspartame, a synthetic sweetener about 200 times sweeter than sucrose. I have never heard of it, so I ask to take some back to my lab to analyze. They give it to me in a little unmarked plastic bag. After I land in Toronto, I have to go through Canadian customs.)

Customs: “Do you have anything to declare?”

Me: “No.”

Customs: “Any food?”

(I think for half a second, pull the unmarked bag of white, powdery aspartame out of my coat pocket, and say:)

Me: “Yes.”

(I have never seen armed men come that fast. They put me in a back room and a few minutes later a border agent comes in.)

Border Agent: “What are you doing with this much cocaine?”

Me: “What?! No, this is aspartame. It’s a sweetener.”

Border Agent: “Never heard of it. What is aspartame?”

Me: “You know, I don’t really know.”

(I open the bag and dip my finger into it and lick it.)

Me: “Good God! That’s sweet!”

(The border agent also tastes it and agrees it really is a sweetener. But before they let me go, the border agent makes a comment.)

Border Agent: “Makes sense it wasn’t cocaine; I don’t think anyone would be stupid enough to pull out a bag of cocaine when asked if there was anything to declare.”

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