On Woman’s Hour recently I locked horns with Annabel Karmel, infant food guru, when she claimed that there were legions of “fussy eaters” out there who need special snack foods (such as her own brand) adapted to their picky needs. What nonsense. The fussy eater is a self-serving food industry construct that allows companies to prey on British parents’ lack of confidence about feeding their children.
Now I see that Little Dish, using Bakkavor - one of the biggest manufacturers in the land - has produced a pizza range “targeted [not my choice of word] at young children one year-plus”. Why are we letting marketeers turn infants into consumers before many of them can even walk?
Don’t exaggerate, I hear you say, it’s the savvy parents who make the decision to buy. Well actually, if you watch Little Dish’s last TV ad, it isn’t. It shows a kindergarten tot pushing a mini-shopping trolley down a supermarket aisle, heading straight for the Little Dish shelves, then gurgling with joy as he presents his selection to his mother. Even by the lax standards of food advertising, it was an ad that reeked of pester power.
For its My First Pizza range, Little Dish is going for an “extensive” social media push. So Mumsnet and co can expect another helping of the usual “healthy/nutritious/contains veg/guilt-free” marketing pitch, this time, with a brazen pinch of pizazz. These mini-pizzas have been “sized for small hands”. How cute, or sickening, is that?
What food message do we give our children when we press factory-made convenience foods into their tiny hands? If we accept this, we’re allowing the food industry to groom future generations for a life of processed food consumption.
“I don’t have time to cook”, is like saying you don’t have time to brush your teeth, a sign of personal neglect. The single best thing anyone can do for their children is bring them up to eat food cooked from whole, real ingredients at home, the same food as their parents.
Nutritionist Jenny Tschiesche, the “Lunchbox Doctor”, gets it right when she offers only one dinner choice for everyone, adults and children alike: take it or leave it.
Joanna Blythman is a journalist and author of Swallow This