Monday, March 30, 2009

Supermarket cakes have (shock!) additives in them

This is absurd. Australia has strict food laws and what is in the cakes is legally approved. It is true that a very small number of kids have sensitivities that give them a bad reaction to some additives but the article below gives the impression that kids generally have such reactions. The original heading on the article was "Coles and Woolworths cakes send kids hyper". There are all sorts of food sensitivities, many quite rare, and if you catered to them all there would be nothing left on the shelf

CAKES sold in our leading supermarkets are riddled with additives that cause hyperactivity in children, a consumer investigation has found. The Australian Consumer Association, Choice tested 97 cakes in Coles and Woolworths and found two Woolworths bakery cakes to be the worst offenders.

Choice spokeswoman Elise Davidson said Woolworths Bakehouse Sponge Iced and Fresh-Filled Cream cake had 27 additives. The Top Taste Rollettes Choc and Woolworths' Bakehouse Sponge Single Birthday Fresh Cream were close equal seconds, with 26 additives each.

Ms Davidson said many cakes were found to contain more than 20 additives, including food colours linked to hyperactivity and additives used to prolong shelf life or cover-up cheap ingredients. "Most people wouldn't use 40 ingredients when baking a cake at home, yet that's what we found in a large number of these cakes," Ms Davidson said. Food colours are used to enhance appearance but also enable manufacturers to get away with using cheaper ingredients, such as apples instead of raspberries in jam filling and palm oil, instead of butter.

More than half the cakes also contained food colours identified as increasing hyperactivity in children, in a UK study published in the medical journal, The Lancet.

Ms Davidson said parents should check product labels for the offending food colours. "Consumers expect the cakes they buy to be fresh and to maintain that freshness, so food manufacturers use additives," Ms Davidson said. "But we think consumers should be aware of the type of ingredients that go into a lot of these cakes".

The study found that price was no indicator of quality, with some of the most expensive brands among the heaviest users of additives. Australians spend $312 million a year buying cakes from supermarkets, which equates to about 70 million cakes.


Why are these vegans sent to plague us?

Comment from Australia by Michael Coulter, a recovering vegetarian

QUESTION: what do you get when you cross moral snobbery with a lack of taste? Answer: a vegan.

This may be tough on a group of people who want nothing more than to live a life free of cruelty. But, while there are many things in the world that are worse than evangelical vegetarianism — pre-season football and question time spring to mind — there are few that are more joyless and depressing. Vegans, you see, exist so that others may feel guilt about something completely normal: the desire to eat food that is tasty, nourishing and appropriate to our physical specifications.

Humans require certain basic nutrients to function, and to be vegan is to spend your life thinking about where you're going to get your next fix of vitamin B12. Not that they'll admit it. The vegans who write letters to newspapers and ring talkback radio rhapsodise about the culinary options available to them, and many of them seem to believe it. Perhaps their brains are so starved of essential trace minerals that they really think that spurning all animal-based products improves the range and quality of their diet.

The centrepiece of the vegan creed is that killing or domesticating animals for food production is cruel and immoral. It's a position that raises all sorts of questions, from those about the cognitive level of animals and whether they experience true emotion, to those about where you draw the line. For example, is it all right to eat grain grown on a farm that kills millions of insects that would otherwise devour the crops? If vegans won't eat honey, as many won't, the logical answer is "no". And just how far down the evolutionary ladder are we willing to go — Save the Microbes has a certain ring to it.

Lately the V-movement has added a second ingredient to its guilt cocktail — the environment. Raising animals is bad for the planet. To which one could reply: "Yes. And so is printing books, growing chickpeas and living in a house."

At some point, you need to balance what's good for people against what's good for the Earth (which, by the by, is an awfully tough old ball of rock that has already seen off millions of species and will see off millions more, including ours, before it is one day consumed by the sun).

Which brings us round to the big problem with veganism, which is that it's not so much pro-animal as anti-people. At the same time it raises up animals, it diminishes humanity. Noted thinker and the intellectual spearhead of the no-meat movement Peter Singer has summed it up thus: "But pain is pain, and the importance of preventing unnecessary pain and suffering does not diminish because the being that suffers is not a member of our species."

You could dismiss this as the "Awww, aren't they cute" reflex elevated to a moral philosophy, but it certainly sets up an interesting hypothetical: how would we live in a world where cows have equal rights with humans? What does a cow want from life, and how would we provide it? What would we do with the millions of cows we already have? Will they be prepared to follow our laws and share our values? Would a cow pass the Australian citizenship test (even one without the question about Don Bradman)?

The point being that humans are the only creatures on earth in a cerebral position to consider such matters, which does give us a certain status. While it's unfashionable for us Western-world types to claim any sort of superiority over anyone or anything, we are smarter than the average bear, bird and even dolphin.

Animals never think twice about devouring each other, often while the devouree is still alive and bleating. We definitely have an obligation to raise, keep and slaughter animals in the most humane manner possible. But survival of the species is a messy business, and instead of wringing our hands we should occasionally give ourselves a pat on the back for being so good at it. It's better than the alternative.

One of the other things that people are particularly good at is making choices, and there's nothing at all wrong with choosing not to eat animal products.

The problem is with zealotry. When a vegetarian comes to dinner, I wouldn't feed them meat, nor would I lecture them on the benefits of doing so. Because, if there's one thing worse than having high-minded zealots jam their dogma down your throat, it's when they want to do it literally.


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