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Let’s all cheer up a bit

The joys of the Festive Season are but a distant memory and, if you hadn’t remembered, today is 'Blue Monday' – the most depressing day of the year.

The science behind ‘Blue Monday’ may be a bit thin, but there’s no denying there doesn’t seem to be too much to be cheerful about just at the moment, as the global economy is reported to be teetering on the brink.

As we’ve come to expect in January, the food and drinks industries were again under the cosh, as the nation received its customary public flogging after its Christmas excesses and was urged to adopt more puritanical and belt-tightening ways.

Those of us who enjoy an occasional tipple had barely recovered from our New Year’s Day hangovers before we received a broadside from the Chief Medical Officer. Even though we Brits are very much lower mid-table in the global league of alcohol consumption, new guidelines decreed that regular drinking males should limit weekly consumption to 14 units of alcohol per week (from previously recommended 21 units) – six pints of beer or six glasses of wine, according to taste.

Last year sugar emerged as the new villain behind the nation’s obesity epidemic and we heard recently that our PM has now declared his support for the introduction of a 'sugar tax', with the noise of 'Jamie's Sugar Rush' ringing in his ears. This was quickly followed by Public Health England launching its ‘Sugar Smart’ app and, not to be outdone, the NHS announced a plan to introduce their own tax on high sugar snacks and drinks sold in hospitals.

The meat industry has been trying to catch its breath after the battering received in the wake of the October IARC report, which bracketed processed meat in the same category as asbestos and tobacco as regards ‘carcinogenicity’. We braced ourselves as our vegan adversaries once again rechristened January as 'Veganuary', calling on all of us to ‘take the pledge’ to cut out meat and dairy products during the next few weeks.

The recent spat between GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) and an outraged vegetarian movement has provided a bit of cabaret. GBK ran a series of posters carrying headlines such as “Vegetarians – resistance is futile” alongside a shot of one of their appetising burgers and a picture of a cow with the headline “They eat grass so you don’t have to”.

A predictable Twitterstorm followed and a tsunami of complaints arrived at the doors of the Advertising Standards Authority. GBK swiftly apologised for any offence taken, stressing that their intentions had been light-hearted. They also agreed to take down some of the posters and the coalition of vegan and vegetarian interests claimed a major victory.
The author of this blog is hardly impartial in these matters, but would it be unreasonable to suggest that this ‘victory’ was a hollow one, assuming that GBK is most unlikely to be the regular dining haunt for most vegetarians and vegans, and their protests will have served GBK a generous portion of free publicity on a plate?

Our colleagues in the US meat industry seem to be enjoying a better start to the New Year, with news that the new government Dietary Guidelines do not include a widely anticipated call for US consumers to cut down on meat. An earlier report, from a scientific committee advising the US administration, had suggested that the new dietary guidelines should also include consideration of environmental sustainability, with clear implications for the meat and dairy industries. It was no surprise that the new guidelines were described as a 'national embarassment' in certain quarters and a testament to the lobbying power of Big Food.

Finally, spare a thought for many long-suffering males. A report from the Sizzling Pubs group suggested that 50% of the male population suffer from 'Lack of Meat Syndrome'. The symptoms include lack of energy, sadness, mood swings and anger.

Time for a bacon sandwich.

Monday 18th January