It seems there is no more hot button topic in the UK than food and obesity, whether it’s days of media parsing of Jamie Oliver’s comments about poor people wasting their money on a “massive fucking TV’ instead of buying proper ingredients and cooking approved food, to the wall-to-wall obesity pornography that’s everywhere.
But not to worry. The high street takeaway chains are riding to the rescue. Walk down any London street and you’re confronted with some chain that’s decked out in virtuous green, hippy colours, offering what appear to be tasty salads, pots of quinoa or wraps full of leafy things. Sometimes you’ll helpfully find the calorie count posted next to the food. It looks like a cornucopia of health food.
Until you taste it. I’ve been eating from a few of these places in the last couple of days, as I’ve been literally on the run.
The stuff tastes awful. Curiously flat. The bread is stale. The salads lacking a little something.
Still, mustn’t complain. London has improved amazingly in recent years, from the days when a quick meal on the go meant bangers and mash at the local pub or a sandwich from Pret a Manger.
It’s the trickery that angers me. I’m at Heathrow Airport and need something to eat and don’t feel like paying over the odds at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant. So I reached for a ham and cheese toastie from Eat, which prominently bills itself as ‘The Real Food Company’. Now, Eat have a sign up that says ‘Good, Fresh and Uncomplicated Food’. If you look at their website, they boast that their sandwiches are handmade fresh every day, from ‘the best quality fresh ingredients’. The words ‘fresh’ and ‘quality’ are repeated numerous times.
I just looked up that flabby, warmed over toastie and it’s 1187 calories with 28.8g of fat. That’s a lot of fat and calories for not very much satisfaction. I could have a meal of meat and three veggies that offers more calorie and health bang for the buck than that. Actually, I could have two Big Macs and would at least be pleasantly full.
When did we need degrees in nutrition to navigate our way through these obnoxious and false claims about the food that we’re about to put into our mouths?
If they wanted to say ‘warm and satisfying toastie’ I wouldn’t mind. But to surround a nutritionally suspect product with lots of messages about freshness and quality – signifying ‘health’ – is trickery. There must be loads of weight and health conscious people out there who just can’t work out why they eat so little, feel so empty and keep gaining weight, and all because they trust that when a product is surrounded by health and quality messages, it might not be a calorie bomb.
Give consumers a real choice by labelling the food as what it really is: high fat, low nutrition junk that won’t fill you up for very long, but which you might enjoy eating.