mixed messages…

The official Olympics 2012 logo is as disappointing as the choice of official sponsors. The disjointed looking piece of Flash breaks a number of accessibility guidelines and resembles something falling apart rather than being in any way memorable, reproducible or having an association with health and fitness.  Which leads onto the sponsors who include Cadburys (should that now be Kraft?) Coca Cola and Macdonalds. High-sugar, high-fat, processed food and drink; the antithesis of what our government is currently advocating as ‘healthy’ eating. The modern Olympics aim to promote the ‘practice of sport and the joy found in effort. In 21st century-speak this could translate as the promotion of healthy lifestyles. Quite where the McDonalds fast food ethos fits into this is not overtly clear. Even more bizarrely is the official Olympic rule of allowing no advertising when the organisers can appoint official sponsors, to generate income to help with the ‘costs of running an Olympic Games and promoting the Olympic message’ (ibid) In 2012 the message seems to be ‘additives and junk food are ok’. How this blatant promotion differs from advertising of products is unclear. Another recent expose of the ‘food’ industry is Ingreedients  which follows in the footsteps of Fast Food Nation SuperSize Me  and Food Inc. The advertising for Ingreedients says ‘This DVD contains the information to live a healthy life but the choice is yours!’ a message the Olympics 2012 should be taking the opportunity to promote rather than associating with the multinational junk food companies who have a vested interest in profits rather than children’s health.

if you can’t pronounce it don’t eat it

When the School Food Trust was set up in 2005, part of its remit was guidance on healthy packed lunches. Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reports on the numbers of children’s packed lunches still based on crisps, sweets, and sugary drinks  saying only 1.1% meet the required nutritional standards and only 1 in 5 contain fresh fruit or veg. If a government strategy for addressing something as fundamental as the health of our children can fail then it doesn’t bode well for the Digital Britain Action Plan’s success in persuading non-computer users of the advantages of the Internet.  Government strategies are doomed when they suggest changes in lifestyle; stop smoking, restrict alcohol, eat five portions of fruit and veg, walk 10000 steps, while all the time there is an easy cheap supply of cigarettes, alcohol and high sugar/salt/fat processed foods, mostly well within 10000 steps.  

January is the time of broken new year resolutions; the majority of which involve giving something up. We pick the coldest, greyest and most miserable time of the year to promise ourselves we’ll be fitter and healthier in the months ahead. But it doesn’t happen; in the same way that sales of cigarettes and alcohol won’t go down so long as they provide the government with a healthy tax revenue and supermarkets continue to offer cut price deals. Habit is a powerful incentive. We choose behaviours that reward us in the short term so delayed gratification may not be the best way to sell an idea or a product, neither is depriving us of something we enjoy. A ‘healthy’ packed lunch is about more than food; it’s about the availability of cost and time, about education and understanding where processed food comes from and the number of additives and chemicals it contains. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients list then reconsider eating it.

Supersize Me and the Future of Food are free to watch on freedocumentaries.org.   Fast Food Nation  and Food.inc tell much the same story. But warning; ‘healthy’ eating may well start here….