Just what else is in the food we eat?

At the end of the 70s and into the 80s, our cows suddenly began to stagger and then seem distressed in their nature and that was diagnosed as bovine spongiform encephalitis.

This was thought to cause the early CJD in our own species. Although this was never proven, it was accepted that the affected animals had been a health risk to us.

Then farmers and stockmen discovered that the animal-feed manufacturers had added animal protein to the material we bought in innocence for stock feed.

This was not a poison but it was not good for grass-eating animals although being chicken waste it did no harm to poultry.

About the same time, following women in the supermarket as I shopped, I began to notice their trollies were being filled with more quick dinners and less raw vegetables and raw meat.

Then it was already pushed as the norm for the spouse also to go to work as well as the husband to supply cash for the average home.

To start with, it was for extras but gradually it has become essential to provide for the mortgage payments as well as the holidays abroad and other family desired things.

This has led to the breaking of the ancient marriage contract going back over thousands of years from the Neanderthals and then homo sapiens which was while the man was the hunter for meat, the female provided the hearth and the cooked meal (See Richard Wrangham’s Catching Fire, How Cooking Made Us Human).

I had been the last of the housewives in my generation and then all meals were home-cooked.

Then I found it was cheaper, as well as tasting better, to make all things like burgers, cottage pies, steak pies, stews and other British dishes at home than buying ready-made.

The trouble is it takes time and if the mother is at work all day she cannot cook and give time to the children as well.

It is now worse, for the government of the day also expects women to be in the work place as more taxpayers.

We are now constantly bombarded with the knowledge that there are enormous rates of obesity, first in the States where the female has been liberated longer into the work place, but now in Britain and Europe.

What followed this autumn was the discovery that another cheaper meat than the beef protein we thought we had paid for had been used in the quick meals but this time that meat was from a species which is usually a meat protein eater. Horse meat!

It has dawned on me that the supermarkets, the politicians and our food experts have missed the whole dreadful warning we have been given about what it is we eat.

The meat in our quick meals is only a small part of the ingredients. What about the cereals and vegetables and flavourings used by the factories?

These sort of makers have fooled us twice, cattle then horse, but we have not been poisoned yet.

It has already been shown that the cereals used contain sugars which induce weight gain and diabetes and they are in the place of the natural cereals like rice and barley I used in the past.

The manufacturers have not fed us a dangerous addition yet but it could happen soon.

The fresh vegetables and meat, eggs and fruit are truly regulated. No farmer or horticulturist is working in Britain without the full inspection of Defra so we know we are safe with food grown at home but what happens when it goes into the factory?

When I was on Northumberland County Council in the 70s there was a department led by a chief responsible for analysing what we bought and all sorts of food was tested.

I can remember one report telling us that Ribena was not purely made from blackcurrants but was largely apple juice.

The same chief reported that Flora, which was then new in the shops, was largely made with water, that was why it slimmed you, but he pointed out that it was cheaper to eat less butter. But he didn’t mind what we bought as long as we knew what we were paying for.

What happened to such a department? I am sure it is time the Minister for the Environment in Westminster sat up and did something useful like getting a proper hold on the manufacturing side of the things we eat.

Anne Wrangham,

By email