Here’s a story that will surely have left those behind the government’s flagship “healthy eating” initiative, Change4Life, red faced. Despite splashing out a staggering £1.4 million promoting the scheme, it seems that a famous face behind the campaign is not exactly practicing what he preaches. That’s because it transpires that one of the ready meals sold by the Ready Steady Cook star, Ainsley Harriott, contains a generous serving of salt.
The revelation comes just a month after the chef was unveiled as an ambassador for the Department of Health’s healthy eating campaign where he stated: “It’s really important to be aware of what hidden nasties may be in your food. Some of our favourite meals contain high amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fat.”
Of course, Ainsley’s use of “hidden nasties” would be somewhat less ridiculous if salt itself were actually a “nasty” and if we didn’t have a traffic light pack labelling showing exactly what’s inside.
It’s no real surprise this story made such a big splash – there are few things the media love more than such blatant hypocrisy particularly from a celebrity. But, more importantly, it also highlights the pointlessness of the colour coding system.
Not only do people find them unhelpful it seems the traffic lighting is simply used by some in their continuing assault on food stuffs labelled as “high” in salt, sugar and fat.
But when encouraging the food industry to adopt a more consistent food labelling system, Anna Soubry, the public health minister, said:
“By having a consistent system we will all be able to see at a glance what is in our food. This will help us all choose healthier options and control our calorie intake.”
The word “choose” is the important one there. If you choose to eat only foods with “red” labels, clearly you run the risk of damaging your health. But eating food that is high in salt, sugar and fat as part of a healthy diet is not a recipe for an early death.
As Ms Soubry said, it’s about choices.