Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Food nazis alert!

Children have to be some of the fussiest eaters in the world. In fact, I think there’s a direct correlation between age and fussiness. Look at the evidence… when we’re kids we’re constantly being told we have to eat our food up and finish our vegetables or there’ll be no pudding. By the time we hit middle age we’re being told if we eat and more of our main course, we won’t be allowed any pudding. Middle age brings on the ability to hoover up any sort of food and store it around the abdomen for later use.

With children, it’s different. Feeding them good-quality food that they’ll enjoy and eat up is a challenge. Kids are inexplicable drawn towards chicken nuggets and fish fingers, like a junkie is drawn to smack. So, hats off to Annabel Karmel who has produced a range of interesting and tasty ready meals for little people. Her website looks great and I can imagine that many a busy working mum has cause to be grateful to Ms Karmel for making it easier to feed children quickly with tasty and nutritious food that doesn’t require them to start cooking from scratch after a hard day at work.

Unfortunately, some hair shirt-wearing food fascists have discovered that some of Ms Karmel’s ‘Eat Fussy’ ready meals have a teeny amount of added sugar and salt. This in some people’s eyes is tantamount to feeding children unrefined cocaine. But what’s the point in selling food that’s so bland children won’t eat it? Surely, even the puritanical health nazis can understand this? Besides, the connection between hypertension and salt is not fully proven.

If we carry on stripping out every last grain of salt and sugar in the food we eat, not only will that food be totally inedible, it will render us unfit to travel as a nation. Our taste buds will become so accustomed to totally bland food that we will be unable to eat anything when we travel abroad. Our food is already fairly bland compared with much of Western Europe, and yet I’m not sure if our hypertension rates are any lower than, say, Portugal’s, where salt is very much a feature of the national cuisine.

Perhaps the attack on Annabel Karmel’s ready meals has more to do with the media’s fascination with knocking down people it feels may have become too high and mighty or… successful.


  1. You say "teeny", BBC says "high levels". One of you must be wrong.

  2. The BBC seems to take most of its views on salt from the ridiculous CASH and bows to the orthodoxy of what is excessive. In fact, the BBC is as impartial on this subject as it is on global warming. I'll stick with teeny, thanks!

  3. Good afternoon ETM and well said - as ever!

    Although I do not have kids, have experience as an auntie and have watched both my sister's approach (where her child now eats everything) and my sister-in-law's approach (where the child is now so overly fussy that one generally wants to kill him!).

    Part of the problem is the breakdown of "normal family life" where one sits down and eats together - for whatever reason this is disappearing.

    Family links are tenuous - life exists of fast food (overly salted and sugared) and then this continues with drink - easy to drink, alcopops the drink of norm filled with additives and sugar. Palates are never properly developed hence no progression to the finer things (and I could continue here but poor ETM this is not my soap box to include all other associated social woes).

    I once babysat my nephew - having been given instructions, we went to the supermarket - bought chicken, assorted veg etc etc and went home - cooked all in various fashions with un-evil swiss stock cube - blended, checked temperature and (several hours later) fed child - to be met with horrific response from said sister in law - OMG was this two parts protein to whatever part carb and fibre??? What horror had I done??? Ho hum!

    Moving swiftly on, hope all is progressing well with the bloomin' leg - hope Whisky been doing his stuff with the purring!

    Best wishes from Cats' Mother

  4. Frankly, Sarah, I'm a bit disappointed with Whisky. He's been neglecting his duties and hasn't purred on my fracture for a while. He only sleeps and eats in this cold weather. I shan't give him any prawns this evening.

  5. Do these people not realise that people need salts to replace electrolytes and prevent muscle cramps?

    Sorry Whisky isn't living up to his end of the bargain right now. I'm thinking of sacking my cat if she doesn't come to bed with me soon :P

  6. Absolute rubbish Traction Man. Do some homework. Look at the evidence, ie scientific journals. Or do you know better than them? Yours is the worst kind of journalism: preferences masquerading as principles.

  7. This is not journalism. It's opinion... my opinion. Don't like it? Then go and read something else.

  8. It is stating falsehoods, dangerous falsehoods. How can people take your ideas about healthy eating seriously when you write utter balderdash at times. Here is a link which helps balance what you wrote. It is about salt consumption and the incidence of strokes in Portugal.

  9. The Portuguese also smoke a lot and I don't see too many people there taking exercise... and I visited often until I became ill. There are many reasons for strokes but the usual nanny response is to ban, ban, ban. It really is a losing battle fighting against the controlling tendencies of socialists who seem to want to remove all free choice from people's lives. As for the ready meals for kids, the salt levels are not above the RDA and as long as the meals are eaten as part of a health balanced diet then it's alarmist crap. Scientists do themselves no favours by continually running around telling everybody the sky is falling. Thanks for the link.

  10. Some good points, however, remember the child/bay that died because of the salt levels....I think it was a productive program because it made some ppl more aware of what we feed children...and maybe the use of spices and herbs could be an alternative to high salt/sugar use.....even pepper.....
    Also ppl are working longer hours, maybe its time for Mums and Dads to regain some work/life balnace and make some meals from scratch......if more ppl protested on how much they have to do at the expense of trying to parent happily, maybe the Goverment would listen to ppl like my Sister who barely sees her Daughter let alone gets to cook a meal for her.....
    They work the nation like robots....I guess trying to get us eating well is just another way of getting yet more hours from us.....


  11. Reading the report that I saw, it stated that the dish with the highest salt levels contained almost 50% of a toddler's recommended daily intake of salt. Now there are a couple of reasons for the higher salt levels in that particular meal. The first is the size of the meal portion which is way more than a small child will eat. In fact, it seems there's enough for two meals so let's assume that the child only eats half the portion. Secondly, this is not added salt. The cheese used in the lasagne has a fairly high level of salt as cheese without salt just goes off. So when you actually examine the figures behind the headlines, the Karmel dinner isn't really dangerous nutrition. As long as the child doesn't eat that stuff every day, drinks sufficient fluids and has a balanced diet, then there's nothing wrong with those meals.

    As far as mothers or fathers having insufficient time to prepare a home-ooked meal, I imagine that's a very common problem. This isn't an ideal world. Because of stupidly high house prices and rents, people often need two incomes to support a family. Green belt and planning policies mean people often have to commute a long way to work. There are many reasons why someone might occasionally need to rely on a ready meal and I feel for parents who don't have enough time to cook from scratch.

    I suppose, in an ideal world, our little princes and princesses would be fed wholesome organic food without any salt, sugar or other preservatives. However, people are living longer and healthier lives than ever before and many of those people were brought up on diets high in salt, fat and sugar. Reducing those three ingredients may have some merit but it's no panacea.

  12. Here in Crete it is essential we all have salt with any meal, especially in the hot weather. Sweating constantly and your salt in the body is depleted rapidly, same as water in the body. So we are all encouraged to add salt to the food and drink plenty of water.

    The mediteranian way of life is reported to be the healthiest way of life. Any cook or chef here will tell you that 4 main factors of healthy eating are , salt, sugar, herbs and plenty of olive oil.

    I really feel for parents that have no time to cook quick healthy meals for their children. I was a busy parent once ,and any time off I had I would batch bake and freeze instant meals on a regular basis.

    Home made beefburgers, garden peas and mash potatoes, all done in sectional dishes and frozen, also home made fish fingers, baked beans and mash potatoes. 4 minutes in a microwave and there ya go.

    Any holidays I got from work, I would spend 2 days in the kitchen concocting inventive ready meals and freeze them. One request I had from my boys was'mum, promise us you will never blend brussel sprouts in the gravy please".

    I have substituted various herbs instead of using salt, sage is a good one and also paprica, but we need salt. The older generation consumed a lot of salt in the past, they are living longer now compared to years ago.

    The reason these experts and scientists do not share info with the public is....They still don`t know the exact answers to anything, therefore they could be sued if they got it wrong.

    My answer to any dammned expert is .... give me positive proof..!!

  13. how about just using my motto - 'everything in moderation'. Too much of anything is not good for you, but being obsessive about anything is not good for you either. On the whole, my family eat home cooked food, sometimes we eat a takeaway, and once in a while, we eat something processed. I don't spend time obsessing about every last detail of what we eat, but I aim for a varied diet, and spend the rest of my time LIVING!!!

  14. Interestingly it is mainly the anglo-saxon part of the world that seems to be obsessed with the dangers of too much salt in food. In other parts of the world scientists nowadays think that for the wast majority of people eating as much salt as they like is not a problem. It's only a small number of people who get hypertension from eating large amounts of salt and consequently it's only this group of people who have to watch their salt intake

  15. That's really interesting, Tina. This was the point I was trying to make. A healthy person who drinks plenty of water will regulate their own salt intake. My concern is not so much with salt, but the modern tendency to ban anything seen as dangerous, sometimes on flimsy evidence, instead of trying to educate. I don't have any major objections to salt content being listed or labelled on my food but I do object when the government directly intervenes with my freedom of choice. I really worry that we're sliding towards bullying, illiberal forms of government where we are the servant and the government is our master. WHy don't more people object to being bullied? Or have they become so infantilised that now they are happy to be bossed around?

  16. "I really worry that we're sliding towards bullying, illiberal forms of government where we are the servant and the government is our master."

    that's my fear too.

    I know a lot of people (not just in Britain, also in other European countries) who moan in private about the government or the EU banning and regulating everything but they would never actively do something against it. I think they have just resigned and are convinced that they can't change anything anyway, so why bother?

  17. I think it's true about what people say in private. I was always under the impression that many of us in Britain were out of step with the rest of Europe and that we are bad Europeans. However, if you talk to people privately in so-called Europhile countries, you soon discover a pretty strong Euro-sceptic view. However, I think many people in continental countries believe that politicians are an elite breed apart and that there is little in the way of direct grassroots participation in political life. Therefore they don't voice their opinions and instead just get on with life. I really worry about this lack of accountability.

  18. What people do not realise is the tax payer pays the wages of the government, not satisfied with what they are paid they decide to steal from us , or bite the hand that feeds them (expenses claims ).

    Still not satisfied, and still not doing anything for the benefit for the people who pay them , they decide to allienate us by enforcing new laws and bullying us in to conforming ,what they think is good for us or bad for us. Isn`t it about time we bit back and did something about it ?

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