Food faults and findings

The Observer today has an interesting piece about Green & Blacks ‘Maya Gold’ chocolate – there’s all the romantic stuff (well yes it is fun) about forgotten colonial plantations reclaimed from the jungle etc, but within its depths is the now all-too-familiar story about a food success story that immediately contains the seeds of its own destruction.

I hadn’t realised just how bad conventionally grown chocolate is:

In Ghana, every tree is doused – by law – with chemicals to keep diseases at bay. In Brazil, cacao is an industrialised crop grown on vast plantations in regimented rows, with insufficient shade and treated with artificial fertilisers and pesticides. This has not stopped, but rather spread, a pandemic of witches’ broom – a fungal disease caused by poor tree maintenance, described by Craig Sams as ‘the BSE of cacao’ – across South America. ‘They have pushed nature to its limits,’ says Sams, ‘and the industrialised model does not work.’

But there’s nothing like enough organic/Fair Trade for demand, and you can’t just switch supply on like a tap. So what usually happens – as did with coffee – once this new market is developed there’s a huge demand, high price, then the inevitable surge in the supply and dive in the price …

What is this solution to this? Perhaps realism among aid agencies/firms, even some discussion among them (but then that will run foul of competition law, most likely) and consumers not rushing from fad to fad.

But for the NHS the answer to an apparent conundrum is more obvious – cash or quality? Burger King or a friendly volunteer with a shoulder to cry on?

Hospital cafes staffed by volunteers who offer cheap drinks and snacks – and a sympathetic ear – could soon be consigned to history. Dozens of NHS trusts, faced with mounting deficits, are bringing in burger bars and cafes run by high-street chains to earn more from higher rents.

Joined up government anyone? I suspect the food served by those cafes isn’t all great in nutritional terms, but no doubt the service is, and Burger King is certainly not going to be a nutritional improvement.

Finally yet another argument against biotechnology – women who consume animal products, specifically dairy, are five times more likely to have twins. And there’s a jump in the rate (which seems not to be able to be explained by other factors such as reproductive technology) when growth hormone treatment of cattle for increased yields becomes widespread in the US. Makes you do wonder about the other effects of the hormone.

2 Comments

  • May 28, 2006 - 7:30 pm | Permalink

    I think your first link should be this one: you’ve got the fast food thing twice….

  • May 28, 2006 - 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Sorry. Thanks! Now fixed.

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