Court Rules That Baker Has to Stop Using Sawdust in His Cookies

A German cookie company had been making and selling sawdust-enhanced treats for around 20 years, and the owner claimed they only used "microbiologically sound" sawdust.

By Jelisa Castrodale 

December 22, 2020

 

A recent court ruling in Germany is great news if you'd prefer that your cookies weren't made with sawdust—and less great if you only eat cookies that have been made with sawdust.

The Verwaltungsgericht (VG) Karlsruhe, an administrative court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe, Germany, flat-out told the owner of a mail-order cookie business that he needs to adjust his recipe and stop selling any baked goods containing sawdust. 

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According to Juris.de, the unnamed plaintiff had been producing and selling the sawdust-enhanced cookies for "around 20 years." He alleges that he wrote a letter to the city of Karlsruhe about his ingredient list in 2004, but they never got back to him. He quietly continued to mix sawdust into his cookie dough until 2017, when city inspectors ran a couple of tests on his cookies, and told him that he had to stop selling them immediately. 

He challenged the city's findings on a number of levels: First, he said that he only uses "microbiologically sound" sawdust, and that it affects the human body a lot like bran does. (Read: You might not want to eat a bag of these cookies before a long flight.) Next, he pointed out that sawdust has always been listed on the cookies' packaging, along with more conventional ingredients like raisins and flour. And finally, the owner of the natural products shop where he buys the sawdust appeared in court on his behalf, testifying that it was a "vegetable product." 

The judges apparently weren't impressed by... any of that, and upheld the city's decision to stop him from selling the cookies. "These cookies must not be allowed into the food chain because they are not safe, and are, objectively seen, not fit for human consumption," the court wrote in its decision. "Further, despite the producer's argument that sawdust was a traditional ingredient, it isn't even used in the industrial animal feed sector." 

On top of the whole "this isn't fit for farm animals" thing, the court added that sawdust is neither included on the European Union's list of approved "novel foods," nor is there any evidence that it has been regularly eaten by anyone in the EU. According to the European Commission, a novel food can be "newly developed, innovative food, food produced using new technologies and production processes, as well as food which is or has been traditionally eaten outside of the EU." It lists Antarctic Krill oil, chia seeds, and noni juice as examples of approved novel foods.)

The cookie guy could appeal the court's decision at Baden-W├╝rttemberg's State Higher Administrative Court—or he could, you know, maybe just stop putting sawdust in his cookies. 

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