Hungry Horse
Double Heart Attack Burger

Why do retailers produce incredibly high calorie food?

Well, it is simple really. They know that modern society loves over the top food and they know that high calorie food eaten on a regular basis makes us hungrier both physically and psychologically. So, why not? As a retailer you would be stupid to worry about health issues in case they got in the way of fat profits. After all, tobacco companies have been trading on that ideal for years.

In the race to be more gross than anyone else, enter Hungry Horse, a chain of pub restaurants in the UK owned by the old Green King brewery. The chain has been going since 1995 and serves value offerings – a sort of modern, fast food version of a gastro pub.

They have imported an idea from the US of multi layered burger sandwiched between two glazed doughnut rings and come up with a product that kicks in at 1900 plus calories – that is more than the entire daily allowance for a female and pretty much all of it for a male. It is 500 calories more than my current diet!

According to the BBC, Mel Wakeman, senior lecturer in Applied Physiology at Birmingham City University, said: “To me, this is simply ludicrous and irresponsible. I am no killjoy but why is this sort of food available?”

But this is not about being irresponsible. That makes it sound like they are not really bothered about whether something is fattening or not. Of course they care. They know well that the selling of this kind of food over a couple of generations has made us hungrier, greedier, perhaps, and more likely to buy more. This kind of food makes a fortune and Hungry Horse are jumping on a well known bandwagon.

They go further too – one of their dishes clocks up over 3000 calories.

Hungry Horse themselves make the point that they cater for a range of tastes and appetites and print the nutritional information on the menu.

However true that might be, no business sells something because they don’t think they can make a profit out of it. They do it because they see pound signs. That is the only reason they are selling this lump of fat, sugar and salt.

 

Dispatches – Channel 4

Well, going by the Dispatches programme tonight on Channel 4, when ever you buy a low fat product – and by that they mean a product that is promoted as a low fat alternative to a normally high fat product.

Unsurprisingly, the low fat versions, although lower in fat, were often still high enough to qualify for a red traffic light. Well, when a product like cheese is made mostly from the fat part of milk, no one should really be surprised.

More revealingly was how inaccurate manufacturers are allowed to be with nutritional information – up to 30% is acceptable. It is noticeable that this 30% appears to be ABOVE what is quoted and not below!

But however horrifying the revelations on the programme might have been, it did leave out a far more important worry about the amount of fat, sugar, salt and so on that we consume and that is our growing reliance on manufacturers to come up with low fat (or low anything else) versions of our favourite morsel rather than using our own knowledge of food.

Years ago, the Daily Mail in one of their “we hate Prince Charles” campaigns, decided to pounce on the Duchy Original Organic Pasty and denounce it as an unhealthy food. SIX HUNDRED CALORIES they shouted from the rooftops with their jaws sticking out and best “disgusted of Tonbridge Wells” hat on.

But, of course, this was nonsense. Firstly, the product manufacturers never claimed this was either healthy or a diet product, simply that it was made from good quality organic ingredients. Secondly, it is a Cornish Pasty, a meal in a pastry designed for Cornish tin miners – it is MEANT to be a high calorie dish – not a snack!

And this is the point. If you want to eat mayonnaise, make a beautiful, home made one with best olive oil, but do not pretend that it is going to low fat, it is not. So, if you want it, don’t eat much of it.

If you want fried chicken, then accept it will be high fat – don’t have a bucket load, just have a couple of pieces with lots of salad and no fries.

If you want to reduce your fat intake. move to foods that are naturally lower in fats and cooking methods that do not add too much. Poach chicken breasts in wonderful stock with loads of vegetables till just done and still moist – it is gorgeous. Eat white fish steamed or grilled with mashed veg made with lots of black pepper and garlic.

And where you do want something fatty, get a really good NON low fat version, but just enjoy a little, rather than stuff your face.

Should we trust the manufacturers? NO WAY!

But we should not blame them either – we need to take responsibility for our diets, buy fresh, simple (and cheap), eat smaller portions of the right food for our needs, and go tell Big Food PR men to go and lie their bums off to someone else.

Yet again, the Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) deals offered by supermarket chains have hit the news amid concerns about the huge amount of domestic food waste across the EU – Ninety MILLION Tons ever year. BBC News

In a report from the House of Lords (PDF) the European Union Committee says that supermarkets must take more responsibility for food waste and not just pass it onto the consumer disguised as great offers.

But of course, the story is far more complicated than that and goes back many years.

If you look at the amount that each of us eat on average every day, it has increased hugely over the last fifty years. We complain that food is expensive now, but we do not realise that your average chicken is not bigger than it was, we eat more potatoes, more of everything – our portion sized have increased and our expectation of portion sizes have increased.

The food industry has benefited from this greatly, but they are not an innocent bystander. Over the years, the food industry, especially through the supermarket chains, have encouraged us to buy larger and more often than ever before – 30% extra, buy one get one free, bigger bottles, tins, more oil, more sugar, more salt to make things moreish…

This is not about competition because you will often see the same offers repeated across many apparently competing chains. This has all been about increasing our expectations and desires and then fulfilling them by selling us yet more.

And the result?

We eat too much, get fat and want more.

And we waste vasts amounts.

We all do it – none of us are exempt. As a population we have simply walked into one huge trap, and the food industry has made enormous profits from it. As we get fatter, so do their bank accounts.

Many years ago there was a fad for huge vitamin C tablets – take one of these a day and you life would be transformed. What the adverts did not tell you was that these tablets contained far more than you needed and your body gets no advantage from extra vitamin C; indeed, it discards it.

Of course we are better educated on such matters now; or perhaps not. The new scam on the block is the protein drink. This is a spin off from the sports and body building world where athletes increase the amount of protein to help repair damaged and worn muscles after working out. Continue reading

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz In his keynote speech at the NRA Show in Chicago, Howard Schultz has said that large companies should be accountable to the communities in which they operate  But he managed to avoid mentioning whether they should pay as much tax as every one else.

Back in 2008 Starbucks was loosing focus with its customers – years of fast growth led the company to forget that though the company was vast, the actual restaurants were small. Schultz refocused the way the company employees connected with the customer – thinking small and individual rather than big and corporate. This is a good strategy for any company, especially in the service/catering sector, and it worked. Continue reading

oliver-bpiJamie Oliver, the celebrity chef who has campaigned long and hard for better, more healthy food in society, has been named in a lawsuit in the US.

Bruce Smith was laid off by Beef Products Inc, who produce ghastly, processed beef generously labelled Pink Slime by Oliver. Also named in the case is US food blogger, Bettina Elias Siegel and broadcaster ABC. Coincidently, Smith appears to be promoting his book about Pink Slime and how it affected his job. I am not suggesting that there is any link between the two issues, of course.

As a writer who writes about the politics of food as well as writing recipes, I think it is essential that commentators should be able to make valid opinions about the food we eat – especially when it comes to the food we feed our children – without the risk of being sued by huge corporations. This is a modern business twist that has also effected the more commercial side of the science and pharmaceutical industries where companies try and shut up critics and writers by suing them.

Despite living longer than our ancestors, we are not, often, healthier. This is as much to do with the huge quantities we eat (and waste) as the more popular complaint of the low quality of many food stuffs.

We need to educate ourselves to eat less and educate the food industry to only supply us with healthy, good quality food.

That means that we should be able to point to and identify the rubbish.

The manufacturers complain that their methods are needed to keep the price down for consumers – but then they undermine that argument by pushing the consumer to buy far more than they need.

Bettina Elias writes on her blog: “For the time being, I’ll have no further comment except to say that I’m confident the First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans, including bloggers like myself, against meritless attempts at censorship like this one.  I will vigorously defend my right, and the rights of all of us, to speak out on matters of public importance and to petition the federal government, as I did through Change.org, to change any policy with which we disagree.

If a company produces low grade, poor quality, food stuffs that has little nutritional value, then they should expect those that actually CARE for the health of the nation to stand up and complain.

It is called the” marketplace” and there will be losers and winners. We want the winners to be the ones that produce food that society can be proud of.

Now, which part of that should be gagged by a legal process?