Friday, 11 January 2008

The Truth About Food?

I watched Dispatches, The Truth About Food, last night on Channel Four and ended up shouting at the television. Not an uncommon occurrence admittedly, but the faux science used by Jane Moore made me completely mad.

Ms Moore, with her best 'serious' face on, had three families eating a certain way for a fortnight while her team analysed the food for fat, salt and sugar content.

One family ate only premium ready meals, another ate only food from the supermarket 'value' ranges, the third ate food cooked from scratch.

Ms Moore was outraged by a pie, from Waitrose, which contained more fat than a portion of fish and chips. It was also higher in fat than the 'value' version, so she concluded it was 'better' to eat the value one. It was a chicken pie. Leaving aside the arguments about cheap chicken, surely the fat content of the Waitrose pie was explained by the fact that the ingredients included things like butter and double cream. It was a premium product, not a 'healthy' product. Something produced to be a yummy treat, not something to be eaten every day.

The other pie (probably stuffed full of battery chicken from Thailand - oops, I said I wouldn't mention that bit today) was presumably packed out with cheap fillers. Frankenstein alternatives to proper, natural food, like butter and cream. Modified starch, for example, which appears on so many things (gravy granules, custards, pies) is a scientifically altered cheap filler used to thicken. It's gloopy stuff, like wallpaper paste. I'd rather eat less of the other pie. There's some debate over the role of saturated fat in heart disease anyway. The blame has transferred to homocystiene which, when present at high levels in the blood, can cause heart disease. Even fit people have it.

But back to Ms Moore, wearing her serious face, frightening us about our food, but not giving any clear alternatives. At the end the families were presented with plates full of the fat (represented by lard), salt and sugar they had eaten. It all seemed to be much the same, although the 'premium' products family had eaten the most fat. But they would have done, these 'premium' products are expensive treats, not healthy alternatives. It didn't seem to tell us anything about their diets, just a plateful of lard which made them all go 'ugh'.

Yes, we all eat too much fat, salt and sugar, but I don't think last night's Dispatches programme did anything to foster a healthier approach to eating. It was just sensationalised scaremongering. All it did, surely, was make people switch off and think, "So, it's all crap, why bother. Pass me a chicken pie."


  1. I missed it, PM, couldn't quite face it and was lured by Moving Wallpaper/Echo Beach instead. Glad I did now. Is she the hard faced blonde who crops up moaning on "Grumpy Old Women" and you never know who she is?? An ex editor of something or other. I thought that by reading the blurb, that premium does NOT imply Better For You, just more expensive ingredients. Jamie tonight, back on the old chickens!! Curry will never again be an innocent pleasure.

  2. Excellent post Pm - I saw it and thought the same. Completely unscientific approach to the whole thing. My food philosophy? Use common sense!!!! xx

  3. Saw the first half and eventually switched off in disgust. Unlike the HFW programme it wasnt telling you anything useful or empowering - just false science and potty conclusions. Bring on Jamie O.

  4. I didn't watch the programme. I am so cynical about any 'food' programmes on T.V. that I seldom watch them any more.
    I enjoyed your blog though and the previous one. I have a box of lovely, new vegetable seeds, just waiting to be sown. What promise.

  5. I avoid such programmes for these very reasons, or I would end up hurling the TV through the window! Or throwing cheap chicken pies at it ;)

  6. I think if we all ate what we were told we might as well live on water and fresh air. If that's at all possible of course.

    Crystal xx

  7. You don't live longer - it just feels like it!

  8. This would have Adrian thumping his fist into the table with agreement. it's his huge bugbear that we have this food paranoia going on - when surely the answer to healthy eating is moderation and commonsense, along with healthy enjoyment. Scaremongering about food is not going to help at all. It sounds a very silly programme - not that I'm remotely surprised.

  9. I think it is important to enjoy food, as the French do, not get wound up with silly paranoias, worrying is just as unhealthy.
    We have just received our order of veggie seeds, so hoping for great things this year!!

    I was pleased to see the book mentioned in your previous blog, I had seen it somewhere, but couldn't recall where, so have now ordered a copy.


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