NOTICE: An urgent need to mend our broken food chain


The sight of acres of empty supermarket shelves resulting from the closure of just two fertilizer factories (where carbon dioxide is a vital byproduct) shows how little we understand the complex supply chain that guarantees that we still do not have enough to eat, but the variety and quality of products that we expect.

Everyone knows that CO2 is an essential ingredient in soft drinks, but how many of us have realized that it is widely used in meat processing, promoting the growth of products such as cucumbers and tomatoes in them? greenhouses, and in packaging (to extend shelf life) of a whole range of items from baby food to baked goods?

Addiction to carbon dioxide is just one of many similar links in the food chain, and the fact that this chain is now starting to unravel teaches us that tinkering with it out of ignorance for political ends could have very serious consequences.

The Covid pandemic has to some extent highlighted some of the weaknesses in the chain, but it must be said that despite the draconian restrictions on containment, producers, logistics organizations and supermarkets have fed us throughout. So it’s disappointing that as we come out of the worst of these restrictions, the situation is only getting worse.

The argument for the cause of this is well established, but one thing is clear: the primary responsibility of government is to ensure the security of the nation, and that includes its food security. And currently, it is failing.

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Whatever your take on Brexit, there is no doubt that separating us from our largest market and the reliable source of labor for our food producers that came with it was a terrible mistake – with no discernible benefit. .

The much-vaunted free trade agreements with the rest of the world, which we were told would replace them perfectly, simply did not materialize. Joe Biden is the latest world leader to cut that ambition this week alone.

Of course, we are not going to starve. But the stories of crops rotting in the field not picked and farmers unable to send their animals to market are not made up. If something is not done, not only will there be empty shelves, but prices will rise exponentially, hitting harder on those who already have a hard time getting food on the table.

It is time for politicians of all stripes to stop playing politics and start working together to solve this problem. Because in the end, as always, it will be the most vulnerable in our society who will pay the price.

What a load of …
A small Norfolk beverage maker with a historic brand made the news this week, after it emerged that Austrian giant Red Bull (established in 1987) was trying to force Bullards (a brand that dates back to 1837) to cease to use their own name on anything but a limited number of products.

Ridiculously, Red Bull claims consumers will be confused between the two brands. Truly? Does Red Bull really think its customers are so stupid?

Russell Evans, left, founder of Bullards Spirits, and family shareholder John Bullard, crush Red Bull cans as Red Bull accuses Bullards of conflict of interest with brand names
– Credit: DENISE BRADLEY / Archant2021

In what many have decried as the worst kind of corporate bullying (the Twitter hashtag #redbully is one that I’ve seen many times), Red Bull is no doubt hoping the Norwich-based distiller is afraid of the prospect of a company with expensive lawyers and deep pockets and collapsing.

So three cheers for Bullards for holding on. As its CEO said in an interview last week, “my dad always told me I had to resist bullies.”

From what I understand, Bullards does not intend to manufacture energy drinks, the core business of Red Bull. But that hasn’t stopped the Austrian giant from trying to prevent Bullards’ historic name from being applied to all sorts of other products, including – ridiculously – tonic water, which surely has a lot more to do with it. artisanal gin with their own sugar. Loaded and caffeinated “energy drink”.

Red Bull looks good here: In 2013, they tried the same trick with town brewer Redwell, who also followed suit and refused to be harassed. Redwell won this particular feud, which should give the Bullards the courage to keep fighting.

On a positive note, the case has garnered considerable attention in the national media, so the Norwich brand is now much better known across the country – perhaps not what Red Bull lawyers had in mind.

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