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Book Review: Not on the Label

Pat's horrified by revelations of tampering and additives used in mass food production.

Not on the Label

By Felicity Lawrence, Reviewed by Pat Wilson.

“Supermarkets have been attacked for selling “fresh” pork which has been injected with water to bulk is out. Tiny print on the back of the package is the only way to tell…”

Daily Mail 17/07/04

 

“Industry Insiders have disclosed to The Sunday Times that food manufacturers are using fat to bulk up and extend the shelf-life of common foods.”

The Sunday Times 18/07/04

 

Recent headlines in our newspapers are revealing some shocking facts about what can and does happen to our food before it hits our plates. We are trying to adopt healthier eating habits but are buying products without really knowing the truth behind what is actually involved in getting them to our plates on time and at the right price.

Most of us will think that these headlines are one-offs and the resulting publicity will have meant changes and the problem will have gone away…

Not so according to Felicity Lawrence, award-winning journalist who is The Guardian’s Consumer Affairs Correspondent. In her book ‘Not on the Label’ Lawrence shows these headlines are just the tip of the iceberg.

In an undercover investigation Lawrence follows the trail of some of our most popular, basic foods as they journey from farms and factories, packhouses and lorry depots across the world. The results show the consequences, often dire, of our global industrialised system of 21st Century food production.

Increasingly under corporate control, this mass food production industry seems to have very negative health consequences for the buying public.

Lawrence shows how antibiotics are frequently over-used in factory farming which aims to provide mass quantities of food to the supermarkets cheaply and at a minute’s notice.

The freshly prepared bagged salads which look appealing and healthy tell another story. The normal levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the pillows of plastic used for packaging have been altered. Reducing the oxygen and increasing CO2 levels slows any visible deterioration or discolouring of the salad leaves keeping the package looking fresher for longer. Research has suggested that this new process to prolong the shelf life of products and give us convenience foods can actually destroy many of the vital nutrients we would expect to be gaining from eating salad.

Bread, a large part of our staple diet is regularly filled with chemical additives, so called ‘improvers’, to put air, water and fat into the loaves keeping them looking fresher for longer; the labels reveal little to the unsuspecting buyer.

Lawrence goes on to look at beans, bread, fruit, coffee and ready meals exposing a range of practises and additives that are regularly used in the mass production of food which can be detrimental to our health.

Reading ‘Not on the Label’ will make your hair stand on end but, it is compulsive reading. We all, as consumers, have a right, and want, to know about the food we are feeding our families. Reading this book means you cannot help but make changes to your shopping list; do you want to be feeding food tampered with and robbed of essential nutrients to your children?

The current food production system clearly needs reform and we can, as individuals feel helpless and feel we have to accept the practises used.

Lawrence drives home the point that clear messages from consumers can and do have an impact; changing the way we shop as individuals means that as a group, we can drive home a powerful message to force changes.

A compulsive read for all.

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Want a diet where you can include chocolate, pizza, and the odd drink? Weight Loss Resources has a great set of tools to help you find a way of dieting you can live with. Find out how to achieve the calorie balance that is going to get you to your ideal weight without a list of forbidden foods. You can access the tools free for 24 hours.

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