M & S - a fish out of which water?update at panel 3, items 3c/c and 3/g here
Better to buy locally.
. Food is on media producers’ menus. On 14 July 09 the UK BBC1 channel asked an important question with a programme title “What’s Really in Our Food?” Green gastronomy, within anyone’s progression in eating wisely, comes as a stage after food awareness.
We are concerned here with raising awareness of harmful food content and processes. As a bonus within the programme, the viewer was told about the deceit carried out by food manufacturers. Before you reach that stage, it’s a matter of cultivating an interest in food labels. At least there one can see the facts relating to content. The manufacturing process is more difficult to discern. That’s where the deceit starts.
Another angle on deceit and at a lower level is the names given by sellers. a term used advisedly. M & S sells “lochmuir Salmon”. You pick up the packet, you react to the association that it is from Scotland and pop it into your basket. You didn’t notice that there was no capital L to lochmuir and that its M & S small-print cover-up because it doesn’t exist.
There is a link to the programme at the bottom of the page.
. Here is one viewer’s [edited] comment:
This particular offering saw reporters Tom Heap and Simon Boazman conducting their own dual investigation into packaging, ingredients and the lengths firms will go to to try and persuade consumers to buy their products even if they do contain mechanically recovered chicken beaks (or something similar). The first half threw up some fascinating facts (such as the fact that Lochmuir, where Marks and Spencer claims its salmon comes from, doesn't actually exist, and that a Birds Eye Great British Menu meal may not necessarily contain ingredients from Great Britain (Thailand, apparently).
The second half extended to Heap having his own pie box designed by a top company, complete with cosy, rustic looking artwork (never mind the fact that the pie itself contained random offcuts of chicken and ham that you really would not want to find lurking on your plate). It was appetising looking, if we're being honest (or at least if you didn't bother to read the ingredients list, which was enough to make one shudder). And there were revelations about food fraud (which included a trip to Italy where this is a big problem) and what it is that really gets put into some chicken portions to make them bigger.
All very fast-paced and entertainingly done, but apart from the odd moment (such as the realisation that if you're planning a salmon fishing holiday in Scotland then you might want to steer clear of Lochmuir) there was a certain sense here of 'been there, done that' only this appeared to be done in a more genteel, less shocking fashion. The chap from the chicken factory who was given some harsh facts about his poultry might have been shocked by what he heard but I have to say I saw it coming a mile off (although to be fair the nature of the programme might have been a giveaway).
I watched with interest, and was particularly angered by the way 'marketing' was aligned to 'tricks' and deception. As a professionally trained marketer with high standards, ethics, and a commitment to professionalism, I was disappointed to see fellow marketing professionals not taking a stand to create products that 'are what they say on the tin'. I was saddened how the ordinary people interviewed in the street were let down by the trusted brand owners, suppliers and manufacturers. This programme has just hardened my resolve to help clean up the whole food chain and retailing of food in the UK.
While I cannot join the last writer in his resolve to help clean up the whole food chain, I continue with my quest to widen awareness of food crime.
A blogger wasted no time to say:
This was a gastronomic horror story, with Tom Heap and Simon Boazman providing the metaphor for a culinary Freddie Kruger and the Candyman as they presented us with horror upon horror in last night’s show. And as it came on, I’d just eaten fish and chips… or had I??
I came away from this programme thinking that nothing’s as it seems in the world of food trading. I thought I was eating cod and spuds, but in actuality, it could’ve been Korean Catfish and stuff injected with water, and all washed in anti-freeze. I kid you not.
Also, I’m not vegetarian and have always felt vaguely guilty about that fact, therefore I avoid veal like the plague and look for meat products which state that the original animals that my pork chops were, at least had a relatively decent life before becoming my dinner. But it seems that cosy notion of self-righteous meat eating was wrong.
Apparently, when the label says ‘Outdoor Bred’, it should more accurately read, ‘We Showed This Pig A Field For About Five Minutes’. What the labelling doesn’t tell you, according to this show, is that Outdoor Bred can equate to animals being outdoors for as little as four weeks, so there goes my guilt-free meat eating… again. The impact of this show was quite profound for me. For instance, big name labels I’ve trusted – such as M&S – may be big fat liars with their pants firmly on fire, or at best, they’re exaggerating or bending the truth about the food they sell, but I should hastily point out – before any writs are issued – they do so very much within the boundaries of the laws regarding labelling.
M&S in fact got a bit of a battering – no pun about my cod/catfish intended – in this show. And shock horror, if you’ve been blithely buying ‘Lochmuir’ salmon – and we do, to the tune of £300 million per year – and thinking this was an actual place, you would’ve been quite wrong. I imagined a tweed-wearing fisherman whiling away heather strewn hours on the banks of Lochmuir, so I was surprised to hear that Lochmuir exists nowhere but in the creative brains of the marketing department.
Other shockers included the fact that bagged salads may have been washed in substances other than just plain old water, which had been my assumption. Again, wrong diddly wrong wrong. They may well have been washed in a cleaning agent laced with anti-freeze!
And when I buy ‘Class A’ eggs, I’d assumed I was buying the best eggs, but actually, Class B eggs cannot legally be sold, so calling them ‘Class A’ rather than ‘The Only Ones We Can Sell You’ is merely a marketing ploy.
And when I buy chicken, I kinda expect to be subsequently eating chicken but in fact, I may be eating the bones and skin of a multitude of animals, not just chicken. And, the original chicken, if indeed there is any in your chicken korma or other takeaway, was probably filled up with water during processing to make it fatter and more appealing.
Finally, the labelling on mince about its fat content just plain can’t be believed; when it says ‘lean mince’ you may in fact be consuming twice the amount of fat it says it contains.
This was a truly informative but stomach churning show. It really is shocking that the food industry as a whole is allowed to con us as it clearly does, so the answer to the show’s title, What’s Really In Our Food, is evidently, Who The Hell Knows, But Probably Hoof, Hide And Chemicals.
We know that water is added to numerous and various food items but the deceit progresses to how it is held in. The chicken breast plumped up with H2O by a third in volume, never mind weight, depends on beef or pork protein powder to stop the water dripping out. Government and other food analysts are working to prevent this type of activity and use DNA analysis techniques to prove that the chicken is not only chicken. Manufacturers use other specialists to disguise the fake chicken DNA and so a cycle of analysis is perpetuated. If within the hope of adopting the spirit of green gastronomy, one aspires to eat wholesome food, what chance for our personal analysis of food labels is there?
Let us conclude with proper Scots comment on lochmuir salmon..