Cadbury et al: Friends or foes?

Cadbury_factory,_Bournville,_from_the_Worcester_and_Birmingham_canal_towpath_-_geograph.org.uk_-_79029Here in Birmingham we’ve had a very special relationship with Cadbury’s for donkey’s years.

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?

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The Birmingham Food Council is a Community Interest Company registered in England and Wales number 8931789