I’m a life-long fan which means I’ve been watching adverts for junk food for longer than I should admit to, though I do feel smug that I have always remained impervious to their charms. Even so, the dross on the screen before, during and after my beloved Corrie has always been a source of irritation. What sort of food philistines do these advertising executives think we CS fans are? Ready-meals feature strongly, as do breakfast cereals and snack foods. I don’t really mind the ads for junk food which are not pretending to be anything that they are not; sometimes they are quite entertaining. It’s the ones that present themselves as public health broadcasts, doing us all a favour, that are most vexing.
Especially galling is Flora Cuisine – “For the Hearts you Love”. It’s full of the usual flannel but with more lather than Corrie itself. Vernon Kay’s mother has been engaged, together with her son, to persuade us that this product is a healthy alternative to olive oil. She tells him/the UK that Flora Cuisine has 45% less saturated fat than olive oil, as if that were a good thing. She’s about to cook a stir fry for her strapping lad. If she really wanted to do him a favour, she’d cook that stir fry in extra virgin olive oil, or perhaps some butter, or even a combination of the two. These fats remain stable when heated. But no, what she’s using is a blend of mainly polyunsaturated oils: sunflower seed, rapeseed and linseed oils together with stabilisers, preservatives and emulsifiers. This is the last thing you should use for frying. That much has been known for a long time; in 2001 researchers looked at twenty years’ worth of studies and concluded that heating cooking oils, especially polyunsaturated oils, poses serious health hazards. These findings were published in a food industry journal, so not likely to have escaped the attention of Unilver, makers of Flora Cuisine, and their ilk.
Frying these oils generates large amounts of free radicals, the sort that are well known to be very, very bad for the heart. But very good for business.
Grootveld, M., Silwood, C.J.L., Addis, P. et al (2001) Health effects of oxidized heated oils. Foodservice Research International, 13(1):41-55.