That’s it then. One hundred and twenty years of brand heritage up in smoke, and all because Farley’s rusks, the classic weaning food of baby-boomers, contains more sugar than a digestive biscuit.
This unwholesome fact comes to us courtesy of research conducted by the Children’s Food Campaign into 107 different foods marketed at babies and young children. Another is that Heinz – which owns Farleys rusks – sells mini cheese biscuits which contain more unsaturated fats than a quarter-pounder Big Mac. Heinz gets a real bashing, in fact, when it becomes clear that only one in four of its surveyed products contain ‘acceptably’ low levels of sugar, salt and fat, compared with half in the survey as a whole.
Why can’t I get too excited about this? Well, for one thing it’s nothing new. The Consumers’ Association did a far more thorough piece of research nearly a decade ago. Secondly, and more important, it’s another piece of headline-seeking sensationalism – which has duly earned its reward in The Guardian, The Times and elsewhere.
What the research lacks is a sense of perspective. The bathos of all this food hysteria was memorably summed up a few years ago by a senior Cadbury executive when he quipped: “I refuse to believe a Curly Wurly is evil.” In just the same way, I’m not entirely convinced that Farley’s rusks (the unreconstituted, sugary ones that is) have done incalculable damage to about four generations of British babies. Any more than the venerable Marmite (another iffy food brand) has done irreparable harm to the rest of us. It all depends on sensible consumption – and an otherwise balanced diet.