Darina Allen welcomes Dolmio move to warn of high sugar content

Chef says a lot more action is needed if health of Irish people is to be improved

Dolmio pasta sauces: Mars Food has promised to label some of its products, such as these sauces, as “occasional” Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Dolmio pasta sauces: Mars Food has promised to label some of its products, such as these sauces, as “occasional” Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

 
Darina Allen

However, Ms Allen has warned that far more needs to be done by governments and companies if the health of Irish consumers is to improve.

Mars Food has promised to label some of its products, such as Dolmio as “occasional” to make it clear to customers that they should not be eaten every day. Meanwhile, other products would be marked as “everyday” meals.

In all, Mars Food – applauded in some quarters and criticised in others for its move – has said about 5 per cent of its products will be labelled “occasional”, including lasagne, sauces, pesto, carbonara and macaroni.

‘Incredibly proud’

World Health OrganisationFiona Dawson

“To maintain the authentic nature of the recipe, some Mars Food products are higher in salt, added sugar or fat. As these products are not intended to be eaten daily, Mars Food will provide guidance to consumers on-pack and on its website regarding how often these meal offerings should be consumed within a balanced diet.”

Ms Allen welcomed the move. “It is not the solution but at least it is a recognition that too much sugar and too much processed food is just not good for people.”

The chef and force behind the Ballymaloe Cookery School expressed concern about how many Irish consumers approach their diet.

“So many people’s lives are so busy and they feel they don’t have time to prepare food from scratch. But deeply processed food is just not nourishing us,” she said.

Low priority

Ms Allen called for the incoming government to develop a national food policy and dedicate a ministerial portfolio to it.

“There is just no coherent food policy which would see us joining the dots and thinking about the health of the nation and not just about the production of food for export. I think we need a minister for food and I have written to the Taoiseach to say that, although I am sure my letter will end up in the bin.”

She said that since the 1960s young people have been encouraged to go to university “and rightly so. But all the focus then goes on academic attainment and we have taken food completely out of the school setting. Schools are not equipping young people with the most basic and most important life skill which is the ability to be able to feed themselves properly. We have failed several generations and played right into the hands of big multinationals by deskilling people.”