LEADING members of the Women's Institute will today be the audience for a savage attack on the food retailer Tesco for allegedly failing to join the fight against the obesity epidemic sweeping Britain.
Supermarkets face attack over food labelling
Dame Deidre Hutton, head of the Government's Food Standard Agency, will use a speech to the National Federation of Womens' Institutes to attack Tesco and other food industry giants like Bradford-based Morrisons for failing to adopt a "traffic light" system of food labelling to warn customers of high fat, sugar or salt content.
Tesco, along with Morrisons and some big food manufacturers like Kellogs, Nestle and Pepsico, have adopted a rival system which is more complicated and more difficult to understand by the ordinary shopper, Dame Deirdre will tell a federation conference.
The WI movement has in recent years developed a much higher political profile. Two years ago, it made national news by slow hand-clapping Prime Minister Tony Blair during a televised speech.
The fact that the head of the FSA has chosen its conference as a platform to attack some of Britain's most powerful businesses is an indication of its growing influence.
And although Tesco is by far Britain's biggest retailer, it has in recent years become the target of much adverse publicity. It has been attacked by farmers for driving them out of business with low produce prices and by smaller retailers throughout the country who accuse the giant chain of bankrupting thousands of small food shops.
A public enquiry is to start soon about the Tesco store in Skipton, the biggest in the Yorkshire Dales. Craven District Council has refused planning permission for the company to extend the store but the company is taking that refusal to appeal.