Bournville was living proof that factory work, even low-skilled and boringly repetitive, could be a vital part of a life well-led in a thriving neighbourly welcoming place.
Yet even before highly questionable behaviours during and after the takeover, by RBS and HMG as well as Kraft Foods, the Bournville factory was churning out high calorie sugary products, both solids (‘food’) and liquids (‘drinks’).
Being a business, they inevitably sought to get us consumers to buy and eat more and more of what they produced. Mondelez, the brand used by Kraft for Bournville is seeking to make a virtue out of snacking, something severely frowned upon until recently— don’t eat between meals, it’ll spoil your appetite; it’s a vice Yale Rudd Centre evidence shows is a major contributor to obesity.
Serious money is made from taking a cheap plant such as sugar cane or beet, and processing it with a few other additions into consumer products. Poundland, a highly successful Willenhall business, gets 28% of its profits from the 14% of its floorspace that’s devoted to selling ‘food’, mostly confectionary, crisps and drinks.
Value-added processing is good business, whatever the sector, so good for the local economy. Yet this particular value-added processing has consequences both on individuals and on society.
Because of these impacts, the WHO recommendation is that not more than 10% of anyone’s diet should be sugar. They’re seeking to reduce this to 5% but are being lobbied by confectionary and drinks businesses not to do so.
So where do we here in Birmingham stand on all this? Do we encourage our local businesses to manufacture and sell sugary products?
Do we allow manufacturers of these products — e.g. Coca Cola, Kellogg’s, Mondelez to name but three in Birmingham — to promote ‘healthy living’ activities in our parks and in services to our children?
- Nearly two-thirds of us have a major weight problem; 25% of adults in England are obese, and a further 37% are overweight. (Food Statistics Pocketbook 2014)
- Recent research in the Netherlands showed that snacking on high sugar and high fat foods contributes to fat around the waist (i.e. the worst kind) and other health problems.
- The Yale Rudd Center publish regular papers on food industry marketing to young people including abut snacking. See also the Mondelez website ‘our snacking adventure‘.
- The WHO press interview transcript about sugar guidelines; see also this Nature article on the anticipated backlash. (The WHO final guidelines are expected to be published in late 2014.)