Why do we continue to swallow these lies?
THERE are far too many people around who think they know best about what we should eat. They’re not content to press the well-founded nutritional understanding that we need a balanced diet, should avoid fads, watch our weight and take proper exercise. That’s all too complex for the simplistic campaigners who, having blamed ill-health on butter and celebrated ‘healthy’ margarine instead, now ask us to forget their faulty advice and join them in a different all-out attack, on sugar.
What’s more, the food fascists demand that, as we’re not likely to obey voluntarily, we should be whipped into compliance by a punitive tax, starting with soft drinks and then spreading to all other sugars. The real enthusiasts are even comparing sugar with hard drugs and pretending that it’s addictive in the same way that cocaine is addictive.
Agromenes is, of course, biased. He likes chocolates and enjoys fruit and old-fashioned lemonade as well as sugar on his cereal. He makes marmalade, chutney and traditional jellies, none of which can be sugar-free; he defends the farmers who grow sugar beet and supports the food industry that they serve.
It’s a matter of balance: a little of what you fancy and moderation in all things. It’s also about choosing for oneself and not being told by wellmeaning busybodies what and when to eat. Educate me, yes; force me, no.
That’s why food labelling is particularly important. If we don’t want a nanny state telling us what we can and can’t eat, we should insist on being given the information necessary to make sensible choices—if we don’t know, we can’t choose and the customer becomes a slave to the producer and the consumer is no longer king.
Labels should come with a health warning, however. Faced with growing demands from Government and the wider public to know the origin and content of food, advertisers are at pains to turn our concerns to their advantage. In their hands, labels often replace information with a marketing message.
It’s increasingly common to play on ‘free from’ concerns. At its extreme, this is laughable. ‘Gluten-free water’ is an obvious con, but it’s only the worst example of the kind of misinformation that suggests a product has qualities that justify a premium price. It’s our propensity for food fads that makes us vulnerable to this kind of mis-labelling. We are easily misled and eternally gullible and businesses have made maximum use of that.
Fructose, sucrose, and glucose are all names for sugar; aqua is only water; low fat may well mean high sugar; less sugar may well mean more fat. The use of the word ‘natural’ is legally restricted, but phrases such as ‘from the farm gate’, or ‘up from England’s West Country’, give the impression of traditional rural fare when the reality could be large-scale industrial production.
Some food-industry leaders have recognised their responsibility to make labelling work. There are clear, easy-to-read calorie counts on Nestlé’s small chocolate bars; significant, but not over-hyped, reductions in sugar and salt in Heinz’s baked beans; more marketing emphasis on no-sugar beverages by Cocacola and, this month, its million-dollar prize for anyone discovering a better substitute for sugar.
What the best companies are doing must become the norm if we’re to avoid further interfering legislation. If food companies tell us what we need to know in a way that doesn’t mislead, there will be no need for Nanny.
It’s about choosing for oneself and not being told by busybodies what to eat’
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