Search This Blog

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Life As We Don't Know It

The BBC have just had a run of three programmes dealing with modern multi-billion pound industries each with ranges of products forming brands within global super companies.

Through the extent and reach of their marketing and publicity and because of the way retailing has developed in both the developed and less developed world their message is now in every home, almost every media outlet and every retailer.

The programmes were about bottled water, breakfast cereals and yoghurt. The second of these have been around now for over a century in various forms but the other two as mass produced products for mass markets rather less. The many modern yoghurt brands have existed for only about forty years.

The strange thing about all of these is that the essential element in marketing them is the notion of health. Bottled water is because the tap water or local supplies are unsafe. This will be true in some places but rarely in the developed world. With cereals it will depend on the processing.

Yoghurt has been with us for thousands of years as a basic nutrition derived from milk that takes advantage of any surplus and as a versatile element in diet. In its manufactured form it has gone well beyond that and is something else altogether.

But the breakfast cereals are another matter. In the late 1960’s Robert Chote claimed that the cardboard packaging was actually more nutritious than the processed cereal. Since then all sorts of extras, mostly synthetic have been added to avoid that sort of complaint.

Then there is the sugar and recently not just ordinary sweetening but a range of artificial ones and others based on corn syrup. These are claimed to be addictive and raises the question whether this is accidental or intentional. The “healthy” yoghurts are also full of sweetening agents and other additives.

For those of us obliged to study content in detail and research them because of medical issues it is often scary to see what is what and the potential effects. Also there are the issues of what happens when you combine all this elements together in one strong package. Who knows? And who is researching?

Luckily there are some jurisdictions where there are independent and other interests who are able to chose what to look and to publish the results. It is largely from these that we learn much of what we know. This is not the case with the UK however.

Between the grip of the major companies on the politicians and the civil servants, the way research funds are allocated, on a basis that demands added value, means that very few in the UK are looking at adverse effects or causes of illness and reactions. The emphasis is on new more powerful products or medical treatments.

This means that any questioning or complaining is left to others. In the UK this means they are open to legal defamation proceedings that even if they win will ruin them. This puts a lock on the work of not only individuals but research institutes and universities. Nobody can afford to take on the big boys.

There are a lot more products and other companies selling goods on a similar basis. These often have health claims. There are all those claiming to get rid of smells. What they do get rid of is the human sense of small and the capacity of the brain to deal with it.

What is truly weird is that in the economic data it is all this stuff that is said to represent the “cost of living” and very little of the basic and/or natural foods and substances our great grandparents used.

Humanity has existed, often thrived and grown for many thousands of generations without it. Yet now the populations of the developed world and others believe and have been persuaded that life would be impossible without it.

The irony is that it might not the possible at all if we continue to use it in the form it is now supplied to us.

No comments:

Post a Comment