It seems that you can hardly open a newspaper in Britain these days without reading some “shocking” exposé of how badly we are eating.
Thanks to films like Supersize Me we have all now heard that (gasp!) eating McDonalds every day is bad for you. We are aware that drinking to excess destroys brain cells (double gasp!); and that eating fatty, sugary snacks will increase national levels of obesity (surely not!).
While none of these revelations are exactly shocking, I suppose that stating the obvious every once in a while can’t hurt the message that we all need to be aware of what we eat. But recently, these sensationalist reports had a new victim: the humble sandwich.
Britain is the country where the sandwich originated and estimates suggest that Brits still consume over 12 million sandwiches each year. Personally, I have probably eaten more sandwiches in the time that I have lived here than in the preceding thirty years of my life – they are everywhere you look, and available in every possible permutation.
I have now become quite a connoisseur of what to buy and what not to buy among the staggering array on offer and, of course, I have my favourites. So I was rather disgruntled to read a report a while back shrieking in horror at the fat content of prepared supermarket sandwiches, like my favourite, cheese, mayo and spring onion. And the report goes on to suggest that such dangerous foods should be dropped altogether in favour of healthy, low-fat alternatives in an effort to combat Britain’s growing obesity problem.
Now this annoys me for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the labeling laws in Britain mean that the label clearly states the nutritional values, including the fat content – so anyone who takes 10 seconds to read will be adequately warned that they are about to consume a high-fat food.
Secondly, the report goes on to compare the fat in a Mars Bar (11g) with the fat in a cheese & mayo sandwich (about 40g) – but misses the point that the sandwich is a whole meal whereas the Mars Bar is a snack. I mean, nobody seriously considers a Mars Bar and a cheese sandwich as alternatives. Do they?
Thirdly, in the fridge next door to the Deathly Fatty Cheese Sandwich is a whole host of low-fat options so it’s not as if everyone is being forced to eat only high-fat sandwiches.
And lastly, this sort of heavy-handed state interference does absolutely nothing to help educate consumers to make the right food choices for themselves.
The most annoying thing is that I can foresee the next step in this glorious nanny-state of ours: sandwiches with more than a certain level of fat or salt will be pulled from the shelves by stores after pressure from government. Don’t laugh – if McDonalds can be pressurised into withdrawing supersize meals and Cadbury’s persuaded to discontinue large versions of their popular chocolate bars, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to foresee a day where I can’t buy a fatty sandwich when I want one.
I am a great believer in free choice. I am not huge on censorship and I absolutely despise being told what to do, say, think. Or eat. I am not overweight, diabetic or a burden on the public health system in any other way.
I absolutely demand the right to make an informed decision to buy fatty, salty, unhealthy food on occasion if I so choose. The way things are going around here, that will soon be tantamount to buying hard drugs. Will I have to mainline melted butter? Snort MSG?
And wait till these guys Cotton on to the terrifying stuff being sold in “health” shops – a 100g packet of macadamia nuts contains almost 70g of fat! I reckon their days of unrestricted availability are numbered…
Do you think the Government should “censor” unhealthy food?
Jeanne Horak-Druiff is the face behind the multi-award winning blog www.cooksister.com.
This ex-lawyer based in London now spends all her free-time cooking, photographing and eating good food. >