Tuesday, 19 February 2013

What are we eating ?

It looks like Nestle is the latest next big business to be in the shit over contaminated food ingredients.  I suspect there will be many more of these stories to come.

In my previous life - working on packaging reprographics - I gained a bit of an insight into the murky world of retail. I used to do work for one of the particular brands recently featured in the horse meat scandal. 

Whilst we worked for them, as part of a cost-cutting exercise they shifted much of their production to Eastern Europe. As a result we were asked to retouch the picture on the front of the box so as to remove a layer of meat from their lasagna. More generally in the fifteen years or so that I dealt with the retail sector there was, predictably,  a huge shift in the supply base - whether it was food or textiles - away from suppliers in this country or Western Europe. 

The big businesses involved sat above this whole  process like Pontius Pilate.

They issued ethical sourcing policies which suppliers were to sign up to, committing them to maintaining decent working conditions and rights for their workers, and to 'transparency in the supply chain' (telling the retailer what they were doing and how they were do it). Having then indemnified and insulated themselves from any sort of shit sticking. the retailers largely left the suppliers  to it. But at the same time the brief every time that a contract was up for renewal was  to pursue more savings. And this crusade was on a 'no questions' asked basis. It is no surprise then that in the pursuit of fulfilling this quest - child labour, sweat shops - and shit unverified ingredients -  are all simply just part of the process. The stories emerging  over what is in the  food we eat is not an isolated scandal - it is endemic to capitalism - and I'm sure there is more to come. I'm also sure that somehow the retailers will manage to come up smelling of roses.

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