So on Wednesday I found myself at the HEFF conference in Shrewsbury. HEFF, for anyone who doesn’t know, is the Heart of England Fine Foods – a great organisation and great venue in Shrewsbury who helps local food producers across the ‘Heart of England’. They also serve incredible food at reasonable prices…. but I digress.
Not for the first time, not for the last. Digression is one of my major faults. Damn, did it again…
So, the reason I went to the HEFF conference was largely for the afternoon’s speaker, a chap from the Design Council. Before you think I’ve a secret love of 80s music, don’t make the mistake of mixing them up with the Style Council. That’s something very different best left in 1986. No, the Design Council is an organisation, partly government-funded, that helps companies with branding, design – in fact any element of design that will help a company increase its turnover.
But before the afternoon – and indeed before the toad in the hole, gazpacho, salmon fishcakes and herby potatoes that was lunch (and don’t even get me started on the chocolate profiterole tower that resembled a gigantic culinary game of Jenga) – there was the small matter of the morning.
The bulk of the morning’s session had been given over to nutrition labeling on food. To be fair, even if you sell food, this is a dull subject. If, like me, you work for a company that doesn’t actually sell food, it’s mind-numbing. That’s not to say I didn’t listen, because actually I did.
And what I heard seemed actually quite bizarre. Why the obsession with 100g portions or 100ml portions? After all, if you buy a can of Coke you’re not going to drink 100ml of it. You’ll drink it all. If I buy a Frey Bentos pie (which I won’t ever!) I want to know how much potential death-inducing calories and fat is contained in that pie. Not 100g of it. Not half of it. Not ‘a reasonable portion’. No, that actual pie which I am about to eat, will it or will it not harm me…
That’s all I want to know. All this traffic light system seems unnecessary. How’s about a three-tier classification system for all food, whether fresh, frozen, over-the-counter or in a restaurant.
1) Healthy… go ahead and eat it. You can look smug at the till holding this while surrounded by the lunchtime pasty fraternity
2) You could do better here, have a brief look at the salads to the right and then buy it anyway if your conscience will allow
3) There’s no excuse for buying this. It will make you fat, and if you buy it too often it will kill you. But it tastes very nice…
Surely that would sum it up. Maybe Fat Friday could even be enshrined in law, and items falling under category 3 only sold on Fridays. True, Greggs would be deserted six days a week, but maybe they’d be encouraged to introduce a ‘Vaguely Good For You’ range.
And the other thing (and I admit I may have this wrong) was that the are changing the GDA (Guideline daily amount) to the percentage reference intake? Not which crackpot sat in a soon-to-be underfunded government department came up with that genius idea? If my imaginary Frey Bentos pie informs me that said pie is 55% of my guideline daily amount for calories I at least know where I am. If I eat two, I’m 10% in debit and can eat nothing else that day…
But if it soon informs me it is 55% of my reference intake, how is that more easy to understand? It’s not. It’s nonsense….
MARK LINGARD, MARKETING