Supermarkets and industrial food processors have fed us the line that it’s fine to live on a processed food diet. And why wouldn’t they? Value-added convenience foods are a licence to print money.
The Government and public health establishment connive in supporting this myth. It’s cool to stop cooking we’re told, as long as you choose your ready meal or frozen burger sensibly and buy it from a “responsible” retailer.
Whenever there’s a processed-food scandal, the Food Standards Agency – which was meant to be a vigilant watchdog, but which behaves like the food industry’s biddable pet – staggers slowly to its feet from its comatose slumber to reassure us that behind the disturbing headlines, there’s no underlying risk to health. But how can the FSA be so sure? If someone, somewhere will tip a consignment of cheap, dehydrated, technologically altered horse meat “filler” into the factory vat, it seems not unreasonable to assume that the equines in question weren’t young, healthy and reared for the tables of discerning diners. Since when did meat from worn-out, drugged-up old horses become a healthy food?
Think back to BSE. From the late 1980s, government consistently denied that burgers posed any risk to humans. By 1997, it had to admit that people had died as a result of eating them.
Now it’s Groundhog Day again. The FSA is trying to feed us the usual “one rotten apple” defence, talking in shocked tones about possible criminal activity. But the truth is that when food is processed, there are numerous opportunities to adulterate it. Products such as ready meals are bulked up with cheap ingredients and laced with chemical additives.
The Government should be telling us to eat as little processed food as possible. But it won’t, because that would upset Big Food Inc. So we just need to do it for ourselves.