Wednesday, 10 April 2013

South Shropshire Journal Column (Unedited) 5/4/13

Last week a school in Essex banned triangular flapjacks after one was hurled across the canteen with ninja-style precision, and one of its three corners sort of imbedded itself in a child’s almost ocular area, nearly resulting treatment from matron. This decision was so bonkers that the local health and safety spokesman declared it “half baked”. When you get the grey-faces from the town hall smirking at stuff like this, you know that it must be funny.

So back in February the horsemeat scandal broke, but unlike flapjackgate, this is something that’s still being talked about, and with good reason. As it rippled out, more and more of the big boys put their hands up pleading guilt, and taking up whole pages in the national press. “We’re going to change!”, they wailed, “We got it wrong!” “We won’t do it again. Promise!”

Some of the supermarkets feel guilty about flogging us a dead horse, but actually why should they? We’re the ones who demanded cheap food from them and we’re the ones who never EVER asked any questions. Until it was too late and by which time so much horsemeat had passed through our systems that there was not much that even the most brutal enema would ever be able to reverse.

I’m not suggesting that Tesco et al are inculpable, but they have a living to make like the rest of us. If you want to buy really awful food at really appealing prices, you’re going to have to take the hit. In the chops, and the belly. You’ve been asking the supermarkets to drive their prices down. They’ve done what you asked, and you’ve been eating horse.

But here’s the thing: In the twelve weeks to March 17th, Tesco saw its market share staying below 30%, the lowest in eight years. And with consumer group Which! reporting that trust in the industry has fallen by a quarter, it looks like consumers are starting to sit up and take stock.

Consumers (that’s you) have started asking questions: Where does my food come from?

A Ludlow butcher tells me, “Since the horsemeat scandal broke, our sales have gone through the roof. We’re selling as much meat in our quietest time of year as we would normally be doing during peak times.”

Too many of us are either unaware or simply don’t care about the option that isn’t the supermarket. Go to your local butcher, greengrocer and baker and make friends with them, tell them what you need and what your budget is, and they’ll sort your supper out. Look after them, and they’ll look after you.

Make demands on your local council too: where I live, parking restrictions and overbearing traffic wardens are merely encouraging people to shop in Tesco. 

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