Ben Goldacre, the doctor whose Guardian column (and best-selling book) so brilliantly exposed scientific hocum and quackery, always came down hard on journalists. And you can understand why when you see “investigations” like the one in The Sunday Times last week. ‘Five-a-day foods packed with sugar,’ it screamed. That’s right. From the newspaper that broke the thalidomide case, Israel’s nuclear plans and the FIFA cash for votes scandal, comes the stunning revelation that fruit contains sugar. Not surprisingly, suppliers and retailers who are trying to do the right thing by creating healthier foods are furious as they have been blithely cast as immoral junk food peddlers.
“Suppliers and retailers trying to create healthier foods are blithely cast as immoral junk food peddlers”
Adam Leyland, Editor
But journalists are by no means the only guilty party. And believe it or not, there was an even more alarming case this week involving the National Obesity Forum. Its State of the Nation’s Waistline report, which claimed the UK’s obesity epidemic was worse than had been feared in a 2007 Foresight Report, was splashed by the Mail and The Times, and covered extensively by the BBC and other media.
Shamefully, no media actually challenged the NOF on the source of its revised predictions, nor claims by spokesman Tam Fry that Britain was falling behind the US in improving diets.
Except The Grocer.
Even more shamefully, after we revealed on thegrocer.co.uk earlier this week that the authors of the original Foresight Report disputed the robustness of the NOF report, Fry admitted to The Grocer there was “no evidence” and “no statistics” to back up its claims.
It’s not the only sacred cow The Grocer has dared to challenge in the past week. With near universal media coverage of CASH’s decision to turn its guns on sugar last week, we went to other, better qualified scientists, for an alternative view. They shared our concern that, in the obesity debate, health lobbyists (and journalists) are obsessing over the perils of sugar (in fruit or otherwise), to the detriment of reason and sound scientific evidence. And they have comprehensive evidence to back this up.
Make no mistake. Obesity is a big problem in this country. And the industry must take some share of the blame. But, as we promised in the first ever edition of The Grocer, in 1862, “we shall oppose, to the best of our ability, indiscriminate onslaughts made on the trade by conceited ignorance or, may be, from interested motives”, and 152 years later, our mission remains the same.