Poverty is exploited by food giants

 

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I have sinned. The other night I ate a mackerel. A nice juicy specimen, purchased from Carricks fish stall in Ripon market. Slashed, stuffed with preserved lemon, and baked. Delicious, but, according to the Marine Conservation Society, this humble superfood must be shunned by anybody who cares about our planet. Mackerel has been declared an endangered species along with pandas, snow leopards, cod and turbot. It has simply become too popular – and too much is being caught off the Faroe Islands and Iceland. The Marine Conservation Society says it's OK to eat it "occasionally", which I find patronising.

My head reels from daily diktats about what we must and must not eat. The reasons cited range from health (protecting our hearts and battling obesity), to environmental (saving the planet and protecting marine life), to social (shopping locally to help small businesses and producers). Food is something on which everyone from celebrity chefs, politicians, doctors and restaurant critics has an opinion but few talk sense. Horsemeat – lean, rich in iron and a delicacy in France – was demonised when it turned up in cheap burgers. Supermarkets and fast food outlets dumped millions of pounds' worth of stock. But if we ate properly sourced horsemeat bred for the table and not cheap beef reared in questionable conditions, we'd be healthier. Instead of condemning horsemeat, we should be concerned about the vast amount of processed meat of dubious origin consumed in this country.

It's right to care about the planet, but only the middle classes can afford to shop accordingly. At the moment, the poorest people eat the least nutritious food, and that's a matter of education, combined with a lack of time. Anna Soubry, the Public Health minister, made headlines when she declared eating sandwiches at your desk was "disgusting" and recommended taking a break for a proper lunch. Clearly she doesn't work in the same offices as the rest of us. She also said she could tell the poorest people in her constituency because they were the most likely to be overweight. Research indicates that obese people in certain age groups are not necessarily from low-income groups. But why let knowledge get in the way of a knee-jerk reaction?

The Government allows food and drink manufacturers too much slack when it comes to levels of salt, fat and sugars in processed food. Labelling is still confusing. The poorest people could eat healthily on a budget if they had the knowledge and the time to prepare food from scratch. This food could be filling and nutritious, but portion sizes need to be addressed too. Quantity, as in the case of whopper burgers and most fast food, like "buckets" of chicken, does not necessarily mean you feel full until the next meal. Bags of crisps and chocolate bars are disgusting large. Teaching people to cook healthy food on a budget and put less on their plate needs a far more subtle approach than Miss Soubry and so-called food experts seem capable of.

Drugs kill

Suzanne Dow killed herself in circumstances reminiscent of the death of Fiona Pilkington, who took her life after police failed to deal with anti-social neighbours who bullied her over a prolonged period. Suzanne, a highly regarded lecturer in French at Nottingham University, had suffered so much verbal abuse from her next-door neighbours, whose property was described as "a crack den", she fruitlessly complained to the police 11 times. One officer wrote, "You just can't win with some people", and was reprimanded by the coroner. Suzanne asked for help for more than a year, but her council only threatened the tenants with eviction shortly before her death.

Sigrid Rausing, whose brother Hans was arrested and charged with concealing the body of his dead wife, has written a moving piece arguing for the decriminalisation of drugs and pleading for understanding of her brother's addiction. Multimillionaires and members of the TetraPak family, Hans and his wife Eva tried to conceal their heroin addiction from their relatives for years. Hans did not receive a custodial sentence, but is undergoing compulsory rehabilitation.

If the Rausings had been poor and living in council property, their addiction would undoubtedly have caused problems for their neighbours. Wealth funds whatever drugs you need and pays staff to create a cocoon of lies so you can do what you want. Sigrid fails to convince. Her brother drove whilst under the influence of drugs. What if he had killed someone? Drugs are inextricably linked to antisocial behaviour, and decriminalising them won't solve that.

Rank behaviour

I'm in love with Simon Russell Beale – in Michael Grandage's revival of Privates on Parade in the West End of London. He's a fabulous star turn as the leader of an army concert party in post-war Malaya, impersonating Carmen Miranda, Marlene Dietrich and Vera Lynn. From restoration comedy to Shakespeare, Beale has shown he's a consummate actor of the first rank. Sadly, for him and the other excellent performers in this show, the audience for this five-star production are a load of three-star duds.

Peter Nichols's play, written in 1977, uses the coarse language of lowly soldiers to make a subtle political point. It's a play about one young man's rite of passage, and the compromises we all make in life. From the moment the wonderful Mark Lewis Jones strides on as the bigoted sergeant major, and liberally spouts the C word, I heard a sharp intake of breath from the row behind, and knew we were in trouble. The wealthy American tourists next to me in the stalls munched Pringles and squelched their plastic bottles of mineral water. They chatted and cuddled, and in the end I poked the one nearest to me in the ribs. Later, I found out they'd been sent to the show from one of the most expensive hotels in the capital. Sadly, actors can't choose who can afford the best seats, but tourists like this are worse than the yobs in my local cinema.

Prissy Pippa

Pippa Middleton's book on entertaining has sold around 40,000 copies, hardly enough to repay her reputed £400,000 advance. Her ambitions as a writer of any future self-help books might be undermined by a hilarious spoof Twitter account @pippatips, which has more than 36,000 followers. Her agents are said to be sounding out other publishers with an outline for another book, possibly on wedding planning, but maybe another career beckons. One writer has suggested that sporty Pippa would make a fine host of a television series based on outdoor pursuits. He overlooks one vital fact: has she actually got anything interesting to say? And would anyone in the US understand her accent? A recent poll rated the Essex accent as the most loathed, but are we ready for the prissy tones of middle-class Berkshire?

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