Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Great British Fake Off

When serving up a hearty breakfast Continental style, it might be worth just checking the ingredients of your fruit juice, because following checks by the Trading Standards staff in West Yorkshire, you might be getting more just a healthy dose of Vitamin C. In fact, out of 24 samples they checked out, 9 of them were not what they said they were and included additives more commonly used in flame retardants and that have been found to affect the behaviour in rats if swallowed in large enough doses. The county council tested a number of products for sale in the shops to see exactly what consumers were consuming, and the results were a little worrying.

Consumers could be biting off more than they can chew
These ranged from sliced ham that didn’t contain any actual ham, to cheese that was not cheese but a form of vegetable oil cum whey product, and worst of all, bits of plastic on cupcakes that were reportedly edible glitter. There was also a herbal slimming tea, which didn’t contain herbs and wasn’t a tea and that has, fortunately, been taken off the market because of side-effects. Other foods that were tested including the exorbitantly expensive saffron which turned out to be bits of flower waste, however doctoring saffron has apparently been something that has been around for years so nothing new there then.

Lewis Carroll was writing about Mock Turtle Soup in the 1800’s and it was invented as a cheap imitation of green turtle soup substituting calf’s head and calf’s foot instead of the hard shelled aquatic tortoise. However, at least the producers and the recipes of the day were good enough to tell you it wasn’t the real deal with the name of the dish. In the war, cafes and housewives were encouraged to serve up mock crab when they couldn’t get hold of a tasty crustacean (mainly chopped boiled eggs and Worcester or plum tomato sauce and cheese)
These days we are encouraged to read the labels on the food we consume, to take note of the fat and sugar content in order to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Unless you have a degree in bio-chemistry, then names of some of the additives don’t mean an awful lot to the average consumer. We have to trust that the food that finds its way onto the shelves of our supermarkets, are as described and fit for purpose.
Powers of the Office of Fair Trading devolved to other consumer watchdogs
Whilst there has been a push for local foods and produce, and for some products to keep their name, e.g. Cheddar Cheese from Somerset, Cornish Pasties from Cornwall and so on, we now have to turn our attention to prepared products and manufactured foods. As the Office of Fair Trading closes its doors for the final time on 31 March 2014, and the Trading Standards Offices, the Citizens Advice Bureau and the newly formed Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) take over the OFT’s responsibilities, as consumers we need to lobby for continued sampling of the food we eat.
Otherwise we could be munching on Sham and Mustard Sandwiches, Frosted CupFakes and washing it all down with a hefty dose of fruit juice with a twist of illegal additives. If you have had a problem when food shopping then let us know – we’re listening!


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