Don’t Just Stand There, Do Nothing!

My word I’ve been lousy about posting lately, haven’t I? Sorry folks, there have been a number of other non-culinary projects on the boil including painting half of Stately Prick Manor — an experience the Prick found almost meditative but which anyone else would find as boring as, well, watching paint dry — so there has not been a lot to say over here in the food department.

That said, my latest in the Daily Telegraph may be of interest. The Prick doesn’t like processed food any more than the next inner-west bourgeois bohemian, but expensive government meddling (as in the “star system” to rate products recently axed by the in-strife Fiona Nash) to no result leaves an even worse taste:

Amazingly, however, neither the government nor much of the press is focusing on the most important question in the story. That is, would such a website — or any other star-rating system for food — do any good? …

There’s no question that foods should be labelled so consumers know what they’re getting (and that information is already there).

But nutrition is complex and hardly “settled science”, as anyone who has visited a bookshop and seen titles urging readers to either quit or keep eating sugar side by side can attest. And this is the heart of the matter: just because you offer consumers more information does not necessarily mean you are offering good, or genuinely useful, information.

Reducing the relative healthiness of any particular product to one simple index is near-impossible. An index of nutrition is nothing like a rating to indicate how much power or petrol a new washing machine or automobile might consume. Nor do stars help the millions of Australians who need to avoid particular ingredients such as sugar, salt or allergens.

Under close examination it becomes clear that the axed system had more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. Under the system, it is reported that high-calorie, sugar-laden fruit juices would have received a five-star rating, the best there is.

Would consumers be forgiven for thinking washing down a bowl of poorly rating, highly processed, sugary breakfast cereal with a big glass of the stuff might still average out to a healthy meal?

Read the whole thing, as the saying goes, and have a lovely Friday. The Prick is off to partake in some noms processed by the Big Food empire of Neil Perry. Full report over the weekend.

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6 Responses to Don’t Just Stand There, Do Nothing!

  1. Having just read your article in the Daily Telegraph today I was left, virtually, dumbfounded. The system that was introduced and posted on the government web site whilst not perfect was a step in the right direction and was similar to the “Stoplight” system that was proposed for the EU, which we know would have had a positive impact because the Food Industry spent close on a billion euro’s bribing and threatening EU ministers to have it stopped, which they succeeded in doing, watch the BBC documentry “The men who made us fat” and you can see the british equivalent of Fiona Nash back down to “Big Food” pressure just as she did. I know the Telegraph is a supporter of all things Liberal but Nash should be forced to resign because she was elected by the Australian public not Nestle, Kraft etc and her position as health assistant minister is to at least pretend she has the health interests of the public at heart. As a side note nutrition is an exact science but is generally interpreted to suit the particular bias of those discussing it. People are fat because they eat the wrong things in the wrong quantities at the wrong time but thats maybe a little too simplistic, might be helpful if the government could help the public with some useful infomation through a new department, we could call it, oh, I don’t know, umm, oh yeah the health department. Things will change when we hit the tipping point, which is when the health costs of obesity such as type 11 diabetes, heart disease and cancer costs more than the food industry pays in bribes and taxes.

    • DMS says:

      Please go away and let me make mu own choices.
      The chart is, at best, subjective and at worse misleading.

      The current system of kilojoules, nutriti9n content and %RDI is perfectly acceptable and not (much) ‘gameable’. A traffic light system (cf heart tick) is meaningless in truth and can (as I say) be gamed or provide a false sense of security.

      Not in the food industry, just sick of people sticking their beaks in.

    • DMS says:

      I’ll just leave this here (thanks AB)

      ABC Radio National Breakfast, yesterday:

      CATHY Van Extel: (Under) the health star rating scheme … cheese and yoghurt get two to 2.5 stars, compared with four stars for custard, three stars for flavoured ice blocks and 2.5 stars for potato chips …

      Australian Dairy Industry Council chairman Noel Campbell: … there’s an indication that potato chips are better for you than full-fat cheese.

      AusVeg spokesman Hugh Gurney: A potato would receive roughly the same score health-wise as … custard … cauliflower may be another one which isn’t as highly rated.

      (end quote)
      Awesome – manages to be unnecessary AND a balls-up.

      • I train hard and eat clean, so I don’t need any system, but obviously the majority of australians do, otherwise the majority wouldn’t be in such shit condition, they need something that is easy to read and pretty much self explanitory, ie; Red = bad Green = good and Amber have a look and think, too simplistic, maybe, but somebody with the publics best interests at heart better get on the job soon or we’re all going to wear it through increased health cover/ medicare costs. And the heart tick has been for sale to the food industry for years, they make a donation, their product gets ticked.

    • Richard says:

      Did you miss the part about the health dept. being directed not to put up the web site until an impact statement had been done? Nutrition can only be an exact science when all human bodies are exactly the same. It is a real science, but it’s not exact.

      Fiona Nash did not back down to “Big Food”. She merely asked whether or not the information to be provided was correct, useful and not likely to have unintended consequences. Since it was designed under labour, it most likely failed all three tests.

  2. anon says:

    Why is it the role of the government to have our “health interests at heart”? It is YOUR job to look after your own health. The whole department should be scrapped – not just the website.

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