A few weeks back i got a call from an ITN researcher working on a Dispatches programme for Channel 4 …their opening line was do you agree the food industry is making people fat? I certainly don’t agree … and was delighted to be able to put my point across . I made a few calls too, to colleagues in the industry to check I was not hugely out of line on current thinking and to test my theories on some others whose opinions i trusted.
I went to Cambridge one cold, autumny Friday am and spent almost 4 hours stood in an industrial estate alongside a street food vehicle they had hired to talk through various issues with the journalist making the show . Had to keep reminding myself i was being recorded all the time so even if i thought i was just chatting, i still had to think about what i was saying in case it made it to air.
In the end about 30 seconds of my four hours made it to air- i suspect because I was so vociferous in defending the industry – and also because I firmly believe that people have to take responsibility for themselves.
• no, if the industry was only allowed to sell 200 gram lasagnes everyone would not suddenly be slim
• there is no perfect size for a ready meal that could be eaten by an 18 year old rugby playing teenager and by an 81 year old less active and very petite grandmother fruit and veg prices have plummeted in the last 10 years – yet consumption has not gone up
• retailers don’t pick high fat foods to promote- they promote the things people buy most, to tempt you into store to buy other things
• some portion sizes have got smaller
• food labelling on packs – especially traffic lighting – gives consumers real power to take responsibility if they are not able to cook from scratch
• there are no such thing as mad foods – you should be able to eat everything but you need to eat far more of certain things and far less of others
• there is a simple equation between calories eaten and calories used in a day – if the calories used are lower than those taken in , you will start to gain weight so you need to exercise
• faddy dieting is not healthy – so missing out whole food groups is not good
• as a country we spend a lower % of our income on food than any country in Europe – so we need to become more passionate about food and care more, and want to buy better things , but less of them
• we need to encourage everyone to learn to cook some simple, delicious , fast to prepare food – right from being a toddler
• every home should have a cooker- this is particularly true of social housing where often people are given a small amount to kit out their home so buying a £30 microwave is the only option , so they end up with no hob or oven.
• manufactured food is not the enemy or the cause of all ills- often people eat food that is manufactured, that they think was freshly prepared. i am certain food produced in controlled environment to strict guidelines could often be more nutritious and well made than a lot of home cooked or restaurant cooked food
• i do think having nutritional information on all menus would make us make better choices and force the industry to clean up on hidden salt etc in these meals
Food industry expert Jane Milton has been in the business for more than 30 years and has the inside track on all things food!
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