Claire Smith: Something is seriously awry when foods are designed to fatten

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JUST look around and it is easy to see that something very strange is going on with food.

Lots and lots of us are not the shape we should be.

We are clearly eating too much, or not eating the right things, or not moving in the right way.

Look on the comments section at the end of any article about the obesity epidemic and you will find some very sanctimonious comments about the “science” behind the problem.

“Move less, eat more. It’s the law of thermodynamics,” blah blah blah blah, say the science bores.

But there isn’t such a thing as science in the way a lot of these clod-headed commentators understand it. “Science”, to misquote Wittgenstein, “is not a body of doctrine but an activity.”

And if you are working in the food industry scientific results depend on who is paying the bill.

There were a couple of fascinating stories around this week about calorie counts on food packets. One highlighted the practice of giving the calorie for a portion size – say for a quarter of a pizza – when no one ever eats a quarter of a pizza.

The other story was about the actual calorific value ascribed to certain foods – suggesting they may be based on faulty and outdated methodology.

But my favourite science/food story of the week was an investigation by Michael Moss in the New York Times about the way food technologists conspire to create addictive junk food.

Moss paints an extraordinary picture of meetings behind closed doors when researchers fine-tune the crunchability, meltability and colour of highly calorific snacks. He explains how certain foods are deliberately engineered that they will never satisfy your hunger.

It is a fascinating account of how scientists have collaborated with the food industry to create the foods which have helped create the obesity crisis.

There is nothing wrong with the science behind all this, but there is something seriously wrong with the ethics of it.