Food labels the government slap on leave us confused and annoyed

The Good Life Letter

Friday, 2nd December 2011 

  • Government food labels won't shift the nation's obesity crisis 
  • Can't cook, won't try - is this the modern way?
  • How can a professor get it SO wrong?

Well paint me purple and call me an aubergine!

The latest food survey has just shattered the Government's bubble by telling them that we don't read health advice on their government food labels.

UK food standards have dropped yet every item of packaged food in Britain has more information about health on it than in ANY other country but we rarely notice it and we certainly don't make decisions based upon it.

Successive politicians have stood in front of the cameras and spouted about their 'new' initiative to improve product labels to help us make better decisions.

The fact that government food packaging is covered in traffic light motifs, quick view nutritional content and more words than War and Peace is a complete waste of time.

I'm always hammering on about the sheer waste of time and money spent developing clever information panels and graphics when the food they're promoting is poor quality and nutritionally sapped.

The answer to getting our nation to eat more healthily is to actually force the manufacturers and shops to let us BUY better food.

Because so much of the pre-processed rubbish that we are offered in the food aisles in our supermarkets is full of salt, sugars and artificial flavourings it has little real nutrient value to us.

By buying this stuff we just fill ourselves with gunk.

We are exhorted to stock up for Christmas on freezer packs of party food and special four bird roasts rather than being offered good quality fresh produce.

At this time of year we have so much choice for local grown vegetables and locally reared meat, we don't need to eat such bland, empty foods.

You might be tempted to jump on the price bandwagon, and tell me that it isn't possible to buy fresh on a budget.

The problem for the vast majority of households isn't about a lack of money though, it is much more complex than that.

Let me explain.

Good hearty food is failed by modern life & big business greed

I've already mentioned that our big stores don't promote healthy living as well as they could; that the large food businesses don't provide us with the freshest and best of produce in its unadulterated form.

Plus I'm positively rabid about the fact that our health ministers have consistently failed to take either of them to task properly.

The reason is money. Plain and simple bottom line profit.

If a huge multinational just sold us good honest cabbage they wouldn't make much profit.

By turning it into 'Luxury Bubble and Squeak like your Grandmother used to make' they are able to add value to the product, but at the same time reduce its vitamin content.

One cabbage with a potential 80p profit on £1.20 sale price a suddenly forms the basis for 10 packed meals with a £1.40 profit on a £1.99 price point.

This madness reached its head for me last Pancake Day when my local Co-Op were selling pancake mixes... just add milk and an egg!

This means that each of the packets contained nothing more than seasoned flour - and they were selling them at over a pound.

The Government doesn't want to make themselves unpopular amongst industry by curtailing this exploitation - so they make half-hearted noises about getting the consumer to make informed decisions.

By doing this they force the problem onto the victim which in itself would be bad enough, but they haven't stopped there.

The Government's double whammy of failings

Over the years our beloved leaders have also reformed our educational system and loaded the schools with red tape around Health & Safety.

This means that our kids don't learn how to cook in their Home Economics classes anymore.

In the past, kids learnt how to make cauliflower cheese, egg and bacon flan and bread - simple, wholesome foods that they enjoyed making and we risked eating! But at least the food was fresh...

We grew up as a generation who could feed ourselves with raw ingredients rather than opening the freezer to see what was available to microwave.

There is no pride in robbing our little cherubs of the chance to grow and cook their own food.

The impact of restricting their palates to gloopy sauces and over cooked vegetables means that they don't actually know what good food tastes like. And they run away from the sort of meals which graced our parents' tables as part of a weekly staple.

The other benefit of this type of food was that it was CHEAP.

Even now I can buy a nice piece of liver from the butchers and make three meals for the five of us from it.
I worked out the cost of this highly nutritious meat was less than 20p per person per day - now tell me that the reason packaged food is bought is because it is cheap.

We're being conned, spoon-fed fibs about our food because the real truth is so disgusting you'd never buy it if it was printed on the government food label!

Each TV ad you see for food is just another lie.

You're being encouraged to buy garbage foods at inflated prices, not healthy foods at cheap prices.

But it doesn't have to be this way. You can choose to eat fresh, tasty seasonal foods, prepared simply.

And our survey says...

I started by telling you about the survey which showed we were ignoring food labelling, and I had a hope that the conclusion would be a scrapping of this nonsense and a return to core food values.

But no, the folk behind the work who call themselves the Food Labelling to Advance Better Education for Life (FLABEL) seem to have their own agenda.

In his closing remarks Professor Klaus Grunert, from Aarhus University in Denmark was quoted as saying;

"The FLABEL research shows the most promising option for increasing consumers' attention to, and use of, nutrition information on food labels, is to provide information on key nutrients and energy on the front of the pack, in a consistent way."

Well dear Prof, you have got it all wrong.

The way forward is to give people a good supply of healthy, seasonal, affordable food so they can cook for themselves.

When the problem lies with the food inside the packet, it doesn't matter how much they tart up the nutritional labels or what the calorie count is. And until our leaders realise this, we'll continue to be starved of nutrients, taste and quality.

Yours as always,




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