I have a personal mind-trainer. He reads things like New Scientist. Digests the tough stuff, regurgitates it in easy-to-assimilate chunks.
Sometimes he’s on the receiving end of, ‘please – shut up! I can’t cope with any more.’ But even then, something’s usually slipped in and stuck.
So the cobwebbed crevices of my disordered mind are full of fragments. Ill-remembered, but ready to be re-awakened by the kiss of a handsome prince. Or, if he’s not available, the nearest internet search engine.
One such fragment relates to a study of that oh-so-perverted collision of tastes. The kind that excites the jaded palates of spoilt, western, junk-food junkies.
Salt, sugar, fat.
It’s highly addictive. If you taste it you just want MORE!
When it’s combined with mushy food – gumming advised, teeth optional – then so much the better. Because the act of chewing tells our minds we’re eating, helps to create that sated, full feeling. And I’m guessing that the harder we chew the more we feel we’ve eaten.
So, if you take a soggy outer casing that purports to be a bread roll, fill it with a soft slab of pre-masticated meat, slather it in slippery, glossy, fruity, creamy, sweet goo and salt the lot generously …
Thousands of calories (well, hundreds) will slip down your gullet with little more than a roll around your mouth.
And – bingo! There’s room for a slice of cherry pie.
… a Cadbury’s Ritz Cracker.
I’ve been waiting years to have a rant about Cadbury.
It had already become a super-sized kind of Cadbury, pursuing – so I’ve learnt this week – aggressive tax avoidance policies. But Kraft dealt the mortal blow.
Took over a treasured part of my personal heritage. My early memories. Teensy fingers of chocolate, wrapped in silver foil. A penny apiece – just the size for a tiny tot.
Cadbury had been British since 1824.
Its Dairy Milk Chocolate came to dominate the market because of the health benefits of the extra milk it contained (‘a glass and a half of full cream milk goes into every bar …’).
Cadbury’s Quaker owners built housing and amenities for their workers at Bournville. It wasn’t just philanthropy, it kept them fit for work.
Cadbury wasn’t alone. William Hesketh Lever built Port Sunlight for the Sunlight soap factory workers (now part of Unilever). Sir Titus Salt built Saltaire village round his woollen mill on the River Aire.
Enlightened capitalism, you might say, at its height.
Kraft bought Cadbury with the help of a huge loan from RBS – yes, the British bank bailed out by the British taxpayer – promising to keep its big plant near Bristol open for at least three years.
But of course, Kraft ate it up and spat it out. Transferred production to Poland. The CEO, a woman, I’m sorry to say, refused to apologise for misleading us.
It seemed the profits were OK, but not enough.
When is enough, enough?
Soon there were so many varieties of everything Cadbury it was bewildering. And of course, biggest-ever everything.
Display stands began to multiply like weeds after the rain.
The classic multinational sales push. Dominate the world. Make more, sell more.
Increase the margins, reduce the quality.
Taste? They’ll keep on buying it – just keep on changing it. Adding new and more exotic combinations.
Of fat and sugar and salt.
Like the chocolate Ritz cracker.
What this says to me is what we all know far too well.
The big confectionery giants don’t give a damn about quality, flavour, obesity. Like big tobacco, they know exactly what they’re doing.
They’re not interested in making things that cheer up our lives, occasional treats to brighten the gloom of a dismal day, now and again.
No, they’re in the business of creating a product that packs 183 calories into a nice big mouthful (35 g). A combination of fat (30% of your daily saturated fats), salt and sugar that almost guarantees you’ll wolf it down in one and go back for more.
Handy, then, that our local supermarket has packs of these things on sale for £1 (about $1.70 as I write).
Three wolfable portions – at 183 calories each – for £1.
To do the easy maths for you – that’s:
90% of your daily saturated fats and 549 calories.
For a snack. A treat. A lunchbox, pocket-money purchase.
So, Cadbury, for me you’re up there with tobacco. And the folk who invented alco-pops.
You know exactly what you’re doing.
And this is why Mary, I have cut sugar out of my diet … well 90% of sugar anyway! I mostly make my own snacks now, however, I went to a fete recently and bought some fudge. Before I knew it I was hooked on sugar AGAIN! It took me a week to stop wanting to eat sugar every 5 minutes. You have to laugh! Addictive for sure. Thanks for the post. Tess
Hi Tess. I hardly ever eat chocolate now (except I do make a chocolate & orange black bean cake – yes, bean – every now and again) – it just never occurs to me – but it’s that insidious combination of sweet, salt and fat that worries me – you start and you need the willpower of a saint to stop! Fudge on the other hand, the mention of it has me salivating! M
Yummy, I love the sound of that cake … black beans and all! Yes, I see what you’re saying about the combination of the three. We try to eat good food but you can’t be perfect 100% of the time. You and me both about the fudge!!! I’ve had my fill for another year though.
It’s so awful when a purely good thing gets chipped away at over time. And yes, they do know what they’re doing but… at least you do, too. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Jennie and thank you for reading. I nearly didn’t post this one it was such a rant I felt better as soon as I’d written it – but then I went in the same shop again and saw the wretched chocolate crackers right by the till. Grrr.
Now the funny thing is that I’m a smoker and as a consequence don’t suffer that many cravings for junk food, in fact I very rarely have chocolate although I do like the odd bar of quality plain chocolate.
As us smokers are a dying breed both literally and as a percentage of population it strikes me that at some point the government will lose so much of its current 9 billion a year tobacco revenue that it will look elsewhere for something to tax in the name of it being bad for you. As the NHS’s own published figures suggest that smoking is now a less common cause of death than dietary related issues (and smoking related deseases only cost the NHS 3 billion so the Government is currently making a nice profit) then it looks very promising that the £1 of unhealthy snack could well attract £5 of tax in the not too distant future. I’ve already recently massively cut back on my smoking since I started cycling again so they’ll have lost a fair bit of tax from me alone.
It will be interesting to see the reactions of all those that have happily seen smokers pay staggering levels of taxation when they themselves are faced with similar levels of duty being placed on these unhealthy snack bars, McDonald burgers, supermarket ready meals etc……. I can just picture the scene iof chocolate lovers sitting on the edge of their sofas in anticipation as the Chancellor reads out his budget speech just as smokers have done for decades. 🙂
Steady with those emoticons, Mr Mud! Interesting thoughts. I suspect alcohol might be a more likely target to raise more money for health benefits – but yes, I agree, it would be interesting to see what happened if they really bit the junk food bullet. We had friends over recently who we know eat a lot of pre-prepared food and both salted their food liberally and talked about how poorly seasoned the food was in a local restaurant. If you look at the packaging of ready made meals they almost always have a red traffic light on the salt. In the USA almost everything has corn syrup added – the bread is to my taste disgustingly sweet and I’ve noticed that relatives coming here find things less to their taste as it’s not sweet – even savoury things. This can’t be good and is definitely no accident on behalf of the makers. Salt, sweetness, fat. They are changing people’s expectations of taste in an unhealthy and addictive way. I’ve noticed that since I stopped working in an office and worked alone I rarely feel a craving for chocolate. Thank goodness – I need the calories for red wine! :))
Oops sorry, I thought I’d only put one emoticon in there.
My wife and I were having a conversation with our children the other evening over tea about a similar subject. We’d both grown up in the era when junk food and ready meals first started to become mainstream so we could remember what it was like both before and after their mass introduction. Our children were shocked to find that prior to the 1960’s there just wasn’t that much frozen food about but by the time we got to the 70’s almost every meal we ate as a kids was some form of frozen rubbish that my Mother had bought from Iceland or its equivalent at the time. Frozen pizza, chicken in red wine, duck a l’orange, fish fingers and copious amounts of frozen veg.
Of course it was all quite new back then and people flocked to buy all these new frozen ready meals. I even remember my Father buying ‘freshly squeezed’ orange juice in little frozen cans! I dread to think of the levels of salt and sugar we consumed as children but I do know that my teeth are in a dreadful state and I’d already had numerous fillings by the time I reached my teens.
Our children were also surprised to hear that we grew up when supermarkets didn’t really exist and I recounted the trips I used to have to make with my Mother going around each individual shop (butcher, baker, grocer etc) and how the shops used to be closed on wednesday afternoons and at all other times they were closed by 5pm. You can imagine their shock when these days they are used to us going to the supermarket at all hours of day and night.
Of course we’ve learnt our lessons and our children have very few sweets and biscuits. They also don’t have fizzy drinks. Instead they snack on fresh fruit and veg and drink water (squash once a day). Much of the veg is straight from the garden with no road miles and no added extras and most meals are prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients so our children have very differing tastes to those children who eat junk. However while all this sounds good, in practise it presents us with several problems. When we have their friends around for birthday parties we’ll find that the tray of fresh cucumber slices, cherry toms and mangetout is left untouched by all except our children and there are looks of horror when they are told that we don’t have crisps, biscuits and sweets for them. The other big problem is that our children don’t like food that is too salty which means that when we go to a restaurant or to other peoples houses they will refuse to eat chips, potatoes etc and at home they won’t eat tinned products like spaghetti or beans for the same reason.
To be honest I don’t see why a tax is not levied on junk food. If the government impose such high levels of duty on Alcohol and Tobacco in the name of public health then surely the junk food that is now the biggest cost to health and the NHS according to their own figures should be taxed too? Alcohol is already heavily taxed so I can’t see them being able to increase that by much. It is also far easier to give up alcohol than cigarettes which is why the biggest increases each year always go on tobacco. Even I can quite merrily go without alcohol for long periods whereas even a short time without fags is difficult so they run the risk of losing more revenue than they gain by overtaxing something. Junk food would be different because it would all be taxed and it would then make healthy food comparatively less expensive than it is current perceived and that would encourage more people to opt for the healthy option of freshly prepared meat and veg?
Sorry for the stupidly long comment.
Don’t apologise – good to read someone who seems in tune with my harrumphing now and again! I was going to say that the only frozen food we ever ate was vegetables – the mixed frozen veg being my particular hate – but thinking about it, we did have fish fingers and chicken pies (loved those – that white sauce and pastry mmm) – and we had the concentrated frozen orange juice too. But at least frozen veg are full of vitamins (sometimes more so than old fresh ones) whereas a frozen spinach and ricotta cannelloni…. salty fatty mush that I have finally learned not to buy when dining alone and too lazy to cook! I do understand that if you haven’t learned to cook at your parents’ knees or at school it can be daunting to prepare from fresh – and time consuming – but it’s sad what youngsters are missing if they don’t eat really fresh – and ripe – produce. By the way, one year when trick or treaters still came around I was astounded how many little ones chose a satsuma over a sweet. Maybe it was novelty value! And I am with you on the tax on junk food (& Coca Cola?).
“And I am with you on the tax on junk food (& Coca Cola?).”
By sheer coincidence I was listening to the radio on my long commute home the other evening and heard part of an article discussing this subject. I’m not sure if I heard correctly but I’m sure it was some agency stating that kids should not have fizzy drinks with their meals as a way to reduce childhood obesity and instead should have water. As a dis-incentive for parents they were calling for a tax on these high sugar content drinks. This wouldn’t be a problem for our children as they already have water most of the time as fizzy drinks are rarely allowed in the house. I smiled when I heard the article though as I had only just suggested the tax on these unhealthy items on your post a couple of days earlier partly in jest.
You heard right – I heard it too. If you look at what drinks like colas do to young developing brains it is scary – especially young male brains who develop empathy later than females (or so my personal mind trainer tells me!).
Do we ever develop empathy? 😉
Maybe 😉 back at you!