The Food Standards Agency is tasked with acting "in the best interests" of consumers - not necessarily what consumers want.Food companies are more concerned about what consumers actually want. People appreciate fat, sugar or salt because they provide richness, sweetness and flavour.But Britain has an obesity crisis with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease at epidemic levels. In Britain's 'blame someone else' culture, food producers are accused of making unhealthy food that people want to eat. But the average adult calorific intake from food has halved over the past 50 years - people are eating LESS fat and sugar today than before they were obese, according to the government.What has changed is 'calorie burn'. We are less active than 50 years ago so we need fewer calories. Yet food companies get the blame. We have to put ever-more complex information on packaging and are expected to lessen the appeal of our products by cutting out what consumers like about them.If we comply, we're accused of providing too much information. Consumers are confused by the complexity and the long chemical names of newer ingredients, such as potassium-based salt alternatives.Let's be honest, anyone that does not know that pies and biscuits are less healthy than fresh fruit is not going to have a chance of understanding nutritional guidance, no matter how it is presented. People know how to eat more healthily and that they should exercise more, but struggle to make the jump from knowledge to action - it's a psychology problem, not a nutritional one. I sit on a couple of food innovation and nutritional research forums and have been applying some of the things I have learned: I have slowed down when eating; I've bought a vegetable steamer; I pre-prepare fruit and eat a hearty breakfast every day; I have cut out soft drinks and instead drink plenty of water; I have changed my approach to food from rushed refuelling to a more leisurely enjoyment; I have upped the amount of exercise I do by walking to work or into the village occasionally, rather than driving.I cannot quite understand the point of joining a gym, though. Why drive there and pay to exercise, when, for free, you can walk there and back and not bother going in?This year, I have lost over three stone (20kg) in weight; my blood pressure is now healthy and I feel great again. Changing to a healthier lifestyle does involve suffering and sacrifice, but what made it possible was taking personal responsibility and adapting my own personal psychology, plus a little help from Mrs Foster.
In my world: the plant baker
30 January, 2009
John Foster is MD of Fosters Bakery in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, which supplies fresh and frozen products to major retailers, airlines and caterers