To fortify myself for the cycle ride home after a gym session earlier today, I partook of a “Fruit, Nuts and Seeds Cereal Bar”. I kid you not, that is what it was called – obviously the naming or branding department of Marks and Spencer’s was not having one of their better days when it came to selecting this particular nomenclature. In addition to having a name longer than itself, I happened to notice, in the few milliseconds that elapsed between me starting and finishing it, that it promised me “guilt-free snacking”.
I am a white, middle-class and middle-aged British man and I have to tell you that M&S have significantly underestimated my capacity for guilt. I am not (knowingly) either Roman Catholic or Jewish – both of which offer their adherents a head-start in the guilt game – but I like to feel that my wide reading, good memory and tendency to worry have made good any lack that my somewhat atheistic upbringing may have occasioned.
For a start there is the plastic wrapper in which it was contained, and its possible destiny as landfill, and the fact that I had not make my own snack from basic ingredients. None of the ingredients used are shown to be ethically sourced and so I am forced to imagine their cultivation and harvest under conditions of injustice and oppression.
The sultanas contain “vegetable oil” leading to the fear that orang-utans have been evicted to allow oil palms to be planted so that my sultanas are nice and shiny (a fact that I then failed to notice, only compounding my indirect criminality). Should I really be buying anything which claims “plum flavour” as an ingredient? Or Fructose Oligo-Saccharide? This last is described parenthetically as “prebiotics”? Does this mean that if left long enough (perhaps under suitable conditions) it would have developed into life? Am I now responsible for genocide as well?
I feel that I must have a case in law against Messers Marks and Spencer Esq. under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 (as amended) for the unexpected mental anguish I have been caused by their rash promises. Is it any wonder that I struggle to sleep at night (or during the day, though I tend to make less of an effort) when this sort of thoughtless pledging goes unpunished?