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“Edible food-like substances” – i.e. junk food

Friday 25 June 2010

Our rural affairs commentator John Sheard, a long time consumer of locally produced food, feels that the most serious item of news this week was not the Budget but a survey which says that 40,000 Brits die early ever year, poisoned by junk food

ALTHOUGH I have been a lifelong supporter of those dedicated people who volunteer years of effort to preserving our wonderful countryside against the depredations of developers, I have always thought that the main job of that countryside is to produce food.

This may because my early childhood was dominated by World War 11 and the years of austerity which followed - quite a buzz word again “austerity” – I remember clearly food rationing and the desperate efforts of my family to feed we youngsters, often by going short themselves.

“Eat local, live longer.”

Only those in their dotage like me can recall such times and since the 1960s, and most certainly in the past decade, food on the table – or, more likely, on the knee in front of the telly – has become such a norm that it could have been placed there as if by the wave of a magic wand.

As a result, millions of children who have never gone hungry have become so pernickety that they won’t anything that is green - i.e., leafy veg and native fruit like apples and pears – and gorge themselves on junk food crammed with sugar, salt and fat.

This garbage is turned out with delight by the processed food industry because it is cheap even after the costs of high visibility advertising are included. The only healthy thing here is the bottom line for the manufacturers and their co-conspirators in the obesity creating industry, the supermarket chains.

In a week dominated by the Emergency Budget, much of which had been leaked in advance anyway as we were softened up to expect even worse, several items of news got much less attention in the media than they deserved, Because whilst the Budget might cause us some financial pain, these overlooked items could prove literally fatal.

This subject was brought to my attention by a phrase from an American writer Michael Pollan, a phrase I would have been proud to coin myself. In a book called An Eater’s Manual, he invented the tag “edible food like substances.” In other words, junk foods full of fat, salt and sugar are not real food at all but some fake imitation.

At the same time, the European Parliament has voted against the “traffic light system” which would give red, amber or green lights on food labels for each of the three killer ingredients which could be spotted instantly by a busy shopper (See news).

another condemnation of just how useless that grotesquely expensive institution is...

Instead, they adopted for a written explanation (no doubt in the smallest print possible) of what proportion a daily dose of such substances is healthy (if at all!), a measure which must vary wildly form person to person depending on weight, sex and age.

How can anyone doing a weekly shop of 20 to 30 items be expected to absorb such information? The fact that MEPs voted for it is yet another condemnation of just how useless that grotesquely expensive institution is because they have obviously fallen for the massive lobbying power of the supermarket chains – a power which kept the Labour Government in its thrall for 13 sorry years.

As we reported on Wednesday, this move was roundly condemned by the British Dietic Association but worst was still to come: the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) reported that 40,000 die prematurely in Britain every year as a result of their junk food diets, which not only causes untold grief for friends and relatives but costs the NHS millions in wasted health-care costs.

New Labour tried for years to wean people of such trash by expensive PR and advertising campaigns, all of which failed miserably – obesity is growing at an alarming rate and particularly amongst children. If the new Coalition wants to do something positive about it, why not put extra tax on killer ingredient like trans-fats – or, better still, ban them completely?

However, for people lucky enough to live in the country, the answer is much simpler: buy your food locally, from a butcher, baker or green grocer you know to sell local produce, or – better still – at the farm gate. This is how we got most of our food back in those days of rationing when I was a boy and – guess what – the British nation has never been healthier, before or since!

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