MT - Food, booze and big cheeses: These local barons wield power despite the march of the multinationals

Trundling and lurching my way into work recently on the London tube, I found myself sitting opposite a poster, the headline for which read 'Fear the Pie!' This latest effort from the British Heart Foundation is designed to scare us into eating the right stuff for our cardiovascular systems and to avoid the dangers of obesity.

by Matthew Gwyther, mt editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

But should we really live in terror of pies? What if they came with a low-fat crust and extra lean fillet steak inside? (Admittedly, both unlikely if your pie was bought in a petrol station or at a football match.) And what if the pie was laced with a generous injection of the latest fad, probiotic bacteria? Should it still be X-rated? Sometimes, you could be forgiven for feeling that the debate about the effects of food in the West is slipping into hysteria. As one embattled executive from Cadbury, dragged in front of a House of Commons select committee, protested: 'I don't think a Curly Wurly is a dangerous thing.'

How Big Food (and Big Drink) is responding to accusations of offering unhealthy fare via irresponsible marketing is the subject of our major feature this month.

The news is quite worrying for manufacturers at the moment. They face increased regulation and the prospect of litigation from disgruntled obese and alcoholic ex-customers, most of whom could have just said no or consumed the offending products in moderation. One thing is sure: obesity is a disease of affluence, and the sight of our society squabbling through the law courts on issues such as the after-effects of Supersized Big Macs or premium lager while millions continue to starve in the developing world is shameful.

On a brighter note, MT focuses elsewhere on the barons who run Britain at a local level. There's something Victorian about the concept of the local man who fights his way up from a modest background to become the Big Cheese in his town. Yet despite the increased influence of multinationals on our lives, these individuals wield considerable power at a regional level. Sadly, there are no women on the baronial list. The closest female challenger is Delia Smith, who now wields some power in Norwich and has committed herself ever more deeply to Norwich FC, improving the quality of its half-time pies in the process. But Delia was pipped by local aviculturalist Bernard Matthews. We'll send a bottle of champagne, by the way, to the first accurate translation out of the hat of the Latin inscription on the baron's plinth on our cover (e-mail me at

And, talking of competitions, MT has teamed up with the Management Consultancies Association to launch the 2005 MCA Awards for Best Management Practice.

Look out for an entry form soon, or call 020 8267 4017 for details.

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