Mark Woods: Family Matters

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We’ve long hidden the salt pot in our house. It is a physical impossibility for me to eat a potato in any of its various forms without putting salt on it first.

I also struggle to imagine anyone anywhere at any point in history being able to dip a finger of buttered bread into a boiled egg without first covering the yolky goodness with copious table salt.

Since becoming a parent most of this salting has happened in secret.

As they’ve got older, spotted the surreptitious seasoning and asked for some themselves I’ve had to resort to the false shake, a technique by which you enthusiastically shake the salt cellar over their food with your finger firmly placed over the hole.

Why do most parents go to this trouble?

Because everyone knows that salt is bad for you. Everyone except the people who make our food, it seems. Yesterday’s revelations that children in the UK are eating far too much salt, with most of it coming from cereals and breads doesn’t shock us, but it should.

But salt being secreted into our food is just the beginning.

The bigger issue is glucose-fructose syrup. A corn syrup that has been processed using enzymes to convert its glucose into fruit sugar, it’s cheaper than regular cane sugar and is everywhere

Not only is it cheap, it also helps to keep foods moist, boosting its shelf life as well as providing texture and crunch to biscuits and thickening up ice cream and yoghurt. In short it’s a manufacturer’s dream.And it’s not just used in obviously sweet foods – glucose-fructose syrup is also found in lots of products you wouldn’t necessarily imagine contain it, such as cereal. The only trouble is this devil’s candy, as it’s been dubbed, tricks the brain into thinking you need more food, and can trigger the growth of fat cells around the heart and liver as well as causing diabetes, obesity and heart disease, according to new research.

Listed as ‘glucose-fructose syrup’, ‘high fructose corn syrup’, ‘HFCS’ and increasingly other oblique names, it’s worth looking out for on the food you eat and give your children. You really will be shocked by how widespread it is.

Twitter@mark_r_woods