Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
MONDAY 23 APRIL 2001
BICHARD, KCB, MR
100. What I am trying to do is get a figure
(Sir Michael Bichard) It is almost impossible to say
how much of that part of the curriculum is spent on this function
and how much that costs. I could not give it to you.
(Mr Rickett) We spent £4 million a year on the
"Are You Doing Your Bit?" campaign which amongst other
things promotes sustainable transport.
There are many other things which could come under the heading
of promotion. We provide money for bursaries, for travel plan
coordinators in local authorities.
101. Targeted advertising, promotion.
(Mr Rickett) We encourage local authorities too.
102. I am just sticking to targeted advertising
and promotion. You have about a £4 million figure on that.
(Mr Rickett) That is an example. I am not going to
say that is the only sum we spend.
(Mr Podger) We do not have a budget for national promotional
103. That will do me so far. How much does the
food industry have as its budget for advertising and promotion?
Vast sums more than two of your departments and probably vastly
more than any figure you would like to come up with. I see heads
nodding in assent. Is this then not part of our problem? How much
does the food industry spend promoting apples and fresh fruit
compared with processed food, food stuffed with sugar, salt, fats?
Minuscule versus lots?
(Mr Podger) Yes, without a doubt, because they are
relatively low value products and the higher value products are
often the ones which are high in fats and sugars.
104. If I look at page 38 and the very helpful
pie chart 21 of the balance of good health, is puffed wheat not
just baked cardboard? The same sort of nutritional value? I notice
that the beans are tinned and even in the fruit and vegetable
segment there is tinned sweetcorn, generally stuffed with sugar,
and I notice even in the fruit and vegetable segment, which has
a healthy green background, there are tinned peaches, again stuffed
(Mr Podger) I think we must be slightly careful, if
I may say so, in taking the view that all tinned vegetables or
indeed frozen foods for that matter are stuffed with sugar.
105. I did not mention frozen. I would not make
(Mr Podger) I myself, on the rare occasions when I
buy tinned vegetables I actually am successful in securing ones
which are not in the condition you described.
106. Do you have much trouble in doing that?
(Mr Podger) No, I have not.
107. What proportion on the shelf, since you
are probably picking them off some shelf or other, is in that
category as against the baked beans and others stuffed with sugar?
(Mr Podger) I could genuinely not say. I answered
your question in terms which I know to be true.
108. Have you read Geoffrey Canon's The Food
(Mr Podger) Yes.
109. Does that give you an idea how much?
(Mr Podger) That is his particular view to which he
is quite entitled.
110. What is the view of the Food Standards
(Mr Podger) In relation to what? In relation to tinned
111. In relation to adding sugar to things like
beans and the sorts of items you want to buy.
(Mr Podger) We take two views, which both reinforce
the point you are making. The first is that we actually think
it is highly desirable to have foods available which are specifically
low in these attributes. The second is that we also think it desirable
that the general productand I think this is your pointshould
in itself not have higher levels of these attributes than is actually
essential in terms of people's taste. That is quite an important
point. It is a point, as you know, in relation to baked beans
where there has been a campaign to reduce the sugar in them. Certainly
the industry itself is very live to the point that you cannot
simply market slimmers' products.
112. I do not want you to speak for the industry
about the dangers, reinforcing perhaps some suspicions of some
of us. To go back to your product, is your product more expensive
than the general one because it is lighter?
(Mr Podger) My experience isand again I can
only talk in terms of my experiencethat that is not the
113. That is not my experience and I shop a
little like you. You can give me the name of your store afterwards.
In terms of baked beans and the drive to reduce sugar, how successful
has that been?
(Mr Podger) I do not have figures available. I shall
happily offer a note.
There certainly have been reductions and salt is a similar area
where we have managed to achieve with the industry reductions
in salt content in bread.
114. What is the Agency's goal on baked beans
for instance or bread?
(Mr Podger) The Agency's general position would be
that it would like to reduce all these elements of the diet which
are found in unnecessarily high concentrations.
115. To what?
(Mr Podger) I am just coming to that point. To the
levels which actually are needed and are shown to be needed either
for palatability or the manufacture of the product and recognising
their position in the general diet which is an important point.
The reason why salt in bread is very important is because of the
extent to which we consume bread. Salt for example in particular
specialist meat products may be less important because they are
not part of the general diet.
116. The problem with salt is that we all take
too much salt.
(Mr Podger) Yes; right, essentially.
117. We do not really need to add salt too much
except to give it that flavour we have actually acquired. Nobody
is going to die in Britain. Are you telling us people are going
to die in Britain if the food manufacturers drastically reduce
the amount of salt they put in, whether it is bread or whatever?
(Mr Podger) No, quite the reverse. I have to say,
to correct your earlier suspicions, that I have told the food
118. Not to be too unfair to you, I thought
you were defending. I should expect to hear from a food manufacturer
the case you have just put for putting salt in things like bread.
(Mr Podger) With respect, it is important. The issue
of palatability does arise in relation to salt in bread. What
we as the Agency are anxious to do is work with the industry to
drive these levels down over time to the one which still produces
a product which is acceptable as a product but does not have these
adverse effects you quite rightly pointed to.
119. The best advice is to give up white bread
and take other types of bread, is it not?
(Mr Podger) It depends again on the actual amount
of salt you have in your diet. I am sorry to come back to that
13 Note by Witness: We are spending £4
million this year on the "Are you Doing Your Bit?" campaign.
The sum of £4 million, has not, as yet, been spent. Back
Note by Witness: The current level of sugar in standard
baked beans is variable at around 6g per 100g of product. Reduced
sugar baked beans have, however, been introduced in recent years
with a sugar content between 3-4 grammes per 100g of product. Back