Stop tutting, start acting over this damaging health scandal

The Good Life Letter 

4th September 2015

  • Why a decade of anger needs to be acted upon
  • Here’s why a cheeky chappy needs a fair hearing
  • The horror that awaits our babies is revealed
Another damp and dreary Bank Holiday weekend held me hostage in my office.

My plans for tidying the garden, clearing out the shed and hacking back the sprawling vines had to be put on hold.

Instead I began the task of sorting out my filing...

...never a happy job that one!

As I was attacking the piles of scientific papers, newspaper clippings and books something started to become clear to me.

Over the ten years I have been writing the Good Life Letter several stories keep repeating themselves, and nothing seems to have changed.

Take the issue of sugar in our food for instance.

Back in 2005 I wrote about junk food being disguised as health food and I offered this advice:

Don't be fooled. These health bars actually do nothing for your health.
Energy bars and chocolate bars pretend to be health foods just by adding some fibre. Sugary cereals boast that they're good for you because they've added some vitamins. But these are no substitute for the real thing - whole foods with natural sugars, vitamins and fibre.

Then barely a year later, I had an encounter with a lady who tried to tell me that the rare lamb I had on my plate was bad for me as it was full of fat.

When I asked about her diet she informed me that she was a convert to health bars rather than snacking on sweets and chocolates, choosing those with high fibre contents to help her digestion.

However, when we looked at what was actually in her ‘healthy bars’ she was in for a shock:

Many of these so-called health bars are packed with artificial sweeteners (like the dreaded aspartame), added sugars, puffed grains, refined flours, starches, unspecified vegetable oils, fruit concentrate and glucose syrup.

The same story once again – our supposedly healthy approach to life being hijacked by shallow minded corporations.

This trend has continued through pages and pages of my letters and acres and acres of newsprint and reports, yet no-one has seen fit to do anything about it.

Whilst high-sugar products continue to be forced onto an unsuspecting public the legislators stand idly by.

But it looks like the issue will be hitting the headlines again over the next few weeks.

Thank heavens for Jamie

The cheeky Essex boy chef isn’t to everyone’s liking and he’s not adverse to a bit of self publicity but I was heartened to see that Jamie Oliver has begun a crusade against sugar in food.

He is rightly saying that we should be reducing the amount of sugar-rich meals we eat, and that comes down to fighting against vested interests, big business and apathetic government.

Ten years ago he ousted ‘Turkey Twizlers’ from school dinners and made the public more aware of how our children’s nutrition is something we should all take seriously, especially when school meals are prepared to a tiny budget rather than a nutrient count.

Last night was the first showing of Sugar Rush on Channel Four and in case you missed it make sure to watch it on catch up – you’ll find a lot of what he has to say follows much of what we have campaigned for over many years.

But one thing that did escape his attention was baby food.

A research team from Glasgow University recently investigated 329 different types of commercial baby foods and found that all of them were too sweet to encourage the baby to develop a taste for wholesome food.

Using large amounts of sweet fruits and vegetables and, incredibly, having extra sugar added to the potted meals meant that even our babies are being coaxed into a life of over sweetened pulp rather than honest and hearty food.

Dr Aida Garcia who led the research was quoted as saying:

“This study showed that while commercial baby foods list fruit and vegetables as ingredients, higher use of these foods was associated with lower intake of fruit and vegetables in infancy which persisted into school age.

“The risk is that while parents may think commercial baby foods are introducing their children to healthy vegetable tastes, actually they are mainly reinforcing preferences for sweet foods.”
Proof if any were needed that commercial organisations care diddly-squat for health, wellbeing and nutritional balance.

The promotional drive to get parents to buy prepared meals for the children is all about balance, health and natural ingredients – the reality we now know is that it is fat, sugar and more sugar.

It’s amazing that any parent who isn’t buying this unmitigated rubbish is being made to feel that they are failing their children, a pressure that persists through the ‘Mc King’ Happy Meal and on to the teenage pizzeria.

We need to wake up to the fact that we are being led into a life of dependency on sugar as surely as if we were buying crack cocaine.

As adults we choose our own foods but our babies don’t – so let’s make sure that we all wake up to the need to stop this blind faith in smartly packaged food, and return to gnarly and nutritious fresh produce in season.

I’ve been banging that drum for over ten years now...

...and there were many more before me who have done the same, but the change has to come with us voting with our feet.

Drop the dross – fight for real food!

Yours, as always


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