The food industry has a problem: it is no longer up against gullible consumers who can easily be palmed off, says Joanna Blythman

Ican't help being amused and encouraged by the infighting that is afflicting the food industry.
First it was Sainsbury, suspen­ding its membership of the British Retail Consortium because its spokesman, Kevin Hawkins, seemed to be pushing the Tesco line of traffic lights labelling.
Next it was the salmon farmers who were in high dudgeon when Unilever's Cap'n Birds Eye dished up the dirt on the industry's use of synthetic colorants and went as far as to suggest - how dare he? - that wild-caught, natural salmon is a more attractive product.
The maverick mariner was only ­reiterating criticisms of the intensive salmon farming voiced by environmental detractors over several decades, but the thing that ­really bugs the salmon boys is that Unilever has broken a tacit understanding that the food indus­try never admits in public to being ­divided. The drill has been to present a ­united front, come what may. 
Collectively, the food industry has operated a shoot-to-kill policy when it comes to countering attacks or criticism. The approach is 'whatever is thrown at you, never give the slightest quarter, just attack, attack, attack'.
This public relations approach is typified by both the BRC and the salmon farmers, who go in for ­robust and, on occasion, overly personal and rather nasty attacks on critics. But the Food and Drink ­Fede­ration also specialises in the same sledgehammer technique. 
In the case of umbrella bodies such as the BRC and the FDF, perhaps this tetchiness is down to ennui with acting as generic food industry mouthpieces while the companies in question dodge the media. In the two years since I published Shopped - my book attacking supermarkets - not one ­retailer has come forward to defend itself in any public forum, preferring to let the BRC take the heat. 
But the problem for the food industry is that it is no longer up against gullible consumers who can easily be palmed off. Voices calling for Britain to break its addic­tion to cheap, adulterated junk and invest in a genuinely ­healthier ­alternative resonate with an ever-wider audience. 
The momentum for change has become unstoppable and the more enlightened actors in the industry will want to differentiate themselves from the backwoodsmen. I predict many more fallouts to come.n