25 May 2000

Food Crimes, a provocative report from the Co-operative Wholesale Society, Britain's biggest farmer and operator of over 1,100 food stores, accuses the UK’s supermarket industry of acting against the consumer interest in seven areas …

Blackmail - the exploitation of children by advertisers;

Contamination - the unnecessary use of chemicals on land and in livestock;

Cruelty - the disregard of animal rights to keep costs down;

Vandalism - damage to the environment by intensive food production;

Cannibalism - feeding animals with the remains of their own species;

Pillage - the exploitation of third world farmers to bring us cheap food; and

Fraud - tampering with the taste and appearance of our food.

The report also alleges that over 75% of consumers believe manufacturers don't act in the public interest, at the same time perceiving themselves impotent to act against the might of the multinationals. The public is “bewitched by advertising designed to charm them into buying products of questionable nutritional value”; and they are worried at failed safety promises and unnatural farming practices; while the “dazzling choice of food and often meaningless claims" of food producers causes bewilderment.

The Co-op has sent its findings to the Food Standards Agency - whose own research reflects similar public attitudes.

But a spoke for the Food and Drink Federation, a body representing food trade interests, dismissed the report as “about perception, not actual bad practice”. He added that it made commercial sense for its members to be seen as “healthier, more ethical, safer and more consumer-friendly” than their competitors.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)