sun 14/08/2022

The Men Who Made Us Fat, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

The Men Who Made Us Fat, BBC Two

The Men Who Made Us Fat, BBC Two

Did Jacques Peretti's three-part series on the food industry make idiots of us all?

Jacques Peretti: reduced fat, reduced insight

If your evening regime involves lying on the sofa with a KFC boneless banquet wedged between your knees and a bucket of Fanta, complete with multi-angled drinking straw to prevent unnecessary movement, under your armpit, then you would have been forgiven for avoiding The Men Who Made Us Fat. Who, after all, wants to spend their downtime being made to feel like a self-harming, NHS-crushing lard-arse?

If, however, you subsist on twig tea and a diet of dandelions washed in spring water by tiny winged seraphs, you might have felt compelled to watch, if only to reaffirm your disdain for the junk food addicts troughing themselves into an early grave.

In the event, Jacques Peretti’s three-parter made idiots of us all, whether fat or thin, by ignoring the traditional arguments about tackling obesity (eat less and you’ll weigh less etc) and portraying us not as thinking individuals able to make decisions about what we eat, but as helpless pawns in the business decisions of evil men in suits.

He spent an inordinate amount of time telling us what anyone who shops in supermarkets surely already knows

There was, naturally, compelling evidence to back the claim. With two-thirds of British people overweight and a quarter of us now clinically obese, our collective weight gain over the last 40 years can undoubtedly be mapped in parallel with the shifting practices of food manufacturers. These range from the advent of super-size meals and the widespread use of corn syrup as a sweetener (a third cheaper than sugar and startlingly efficient at metabolising into fat) to the trumpeting of supposedly healthy foods - often the same additive-soaked rubbish but with an extra glob of pureed fruit in it.

This final episode looked at the bogus claims of healthy food producers and laid down the realities of a balanced diet as presented by avaricious supermarket chains. Just because something is organic doesn’t make it less fattening, we were told, as if this were actually news. Indeed Peretti and his bevy of talking heads spent an inordinate amount of time telling us what anyone who shops in supermarkets surely already knows, and doing it over and over again. Healthy food is more expensive! Supermarkets put profit first! Unhealthy food tastes better than healthy food!

Peretti (pictured right with breakfast) was more informative on the health scares of the past, taking us back to Edwina Currie’s late-Eighties egg calamity, mad cow disease and the marketing campaign masterminded by Sunny Delight to convince parents that their glutinous orange drink was in some way nutritious. The company never quite recovered from the scandal that ensued after a four-year-old drank too much of it and turned the same colour as Jordan.

But the flaw in this, and indeed the whole series, was in absolving us, the consumers, of all responsibility and in trying to convince us that our overeating was entirely down to "them". While Peretti’s shaming of the food industry was admirable in its ferocity, his determination not to embarrass viewers was baffling and more than a little dishonest.

Of course, you can argue that trends in food production, portion sizes and hidden ingredients are mitigating factors when it comes to modern eating habits and our ever-expanding waistlines. But ultimately, while this stuff looks good in takeaway cartons and on supermarket shelves, no one is forcing us to eat it.

Just because something is organic doesn’t make it less fattening, we were told, as if this were actually news

Explore topics

Share this article


Sounds like you don't really get it Fiona, the clue is in the title. This series wasn't about trying to tell us how to avoid obesity, its purpose was to explain how the food industry has influenced the way we eat (regardless of the catastrophic effect this has on our health) purely to maximise profit and how governments worldwide are too scared to intervene. Given the nanny state here in the UK and the ridiculous health and safety regulations which pervade our lives, allowing the food industry to poison us with the crap they sell is gross hypocrisy. What I got from the series was that governments don't really care about their citizens' health and are happy to allow things to continue as they are to protect big business.

Couldn't agree with Gus more. Politicians are the servants of big business -their only interest in ordinary people is how to dupe us into voting for them. This programme shows exactly how so called government operates and this is why the banks are out of control.

Yes, agree Fiona is missing the point, with a rather feeble conservative argument.

Agree with the previous commentators, Fiona is hiding behind the idea that we are all able to choose. If that were the case the marketing industry would not exist. The role of government in all of this and other contentious arenas, environment, banking, infrastructure etc etc is very revealing. The economic imperatives dominate and there is no vision for the future 10/50/100 years down the line. Take environmental degradation for example, the Rio Summit held in June was called to discuss the very future of mankind !!! Cameron and Merkel chose to attend the inconveniently scheduled G20 instead and ponder the EuroZone crisis. Could not the finance ministers have handled that?

I just watched your documentary on people becoming overweight. You mention that Denmark and France have imposed a tax on fatty food, but you skip Finland, for example. What sort of unsystematic lottery journalism are youtrying to produce? K Heikkinen

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters