Food firms and fat-fighters


Five leading food companies have introduced a labelling scheme for their products in the British market, in an attempt to assuage critics who say they encourage obesity. But consumer groups are unhappy all the same. Is the food industry, like tobacco before it, about to be *engulfed[1] by a wave of lawsuits brought on health grounds?

KEEPING fit requires a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise. On the second of these at least, the world’s food companies can claim to be setting a good example: they have been working up quite a sweat in their attempts to fend off assaults by governments, consumer groups and lawyers who accuse them of peddling products that encourage obesity. This week saw the unveiling of another industry initiative: five leading food producers—Danone, Kellogg, Nestlé, Kraft and PepsiCo—introduced a labelling scheme for the British market which will show “guideline daily amounts” for calories, fats, sugar and salt on packaging. The new labels will start to appear on the firms’ crisps, chocolate bars, cheese slices *and the like[2] over the next few months. A number of other food giants, such as Cadbury Schweppes and Masterfoods, have already started putting guideline labels on their products.
将健康的饮食习惯和经常性的锻炼二者结合才可以让身体保持健康。至少就第二点而言,全球的食品公司可以说是树立了一个很好的典范:为了避开政府、消费者团体以及律师们的抨击——指责食品公司四处兜售促进肥胖的产品,他们已经累得大汗淋漓了。本周,食品业的另一举措也公诸于世:五家业内领先的食品厂商——Danone, Kellogg, Nestlé, Kraft以及PepsiCo——在英国市场实施了一项商品标注计划,即在包装上标明卡路里(热量)、脂肪、糖和盐的“每日摄入量指南”。在接下来的几个月里,这些食品公司的土豆条、巧克力棒、干酪片等等包装上将开始出现这类新标注。其它许多食品业巨头如Cadbury Schweppes 和Masterfoods也已经着手在其产品上加入指导性标记。

The food companies say doing this will empower consumers, allowing them to make informed decisions about which foods are healthy. (1)But consumer groups have cried foul. They point out that the Food Standards Agency, a government watchdog, is due to recommend a different type of labelling scheme next month: a “traffic light” system using colours to tell consumers whether products have low, medium or high levels of fat, salt and the like. The food firms, they say, have rushed to introduce their own, fuzzier guidelines first in a cynical attempt to undermine the government’s plan—which they fear might hurt their sales. In consumer tests, the traffic light performed better than rival labelling schemes.

Nevertheless, the food companies argue that the traffic-light system is too simplistic and likely to scare people away from certain products that are fine if consumed in moderation, or in conjunction with plenty of exercise—which most observers, including the medical profession, agree is crucial for anyone wanting to stay in shape. They also point out that they have competitors to worry about—namely the big supermarket chains with their own-label products. Last April, Tesco, the biggest of these, announced that it was rejecting the traffic-light system in favour of a less stark “signposting” approach. Its rivals fear that adopting colour-coding could put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Better labelling has become an important weapon of the food giants’ armoury as they fight back against their critics. In October 2005 McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast-food company, said it would start printing nutritional facts on the packaging of its burgers and fries, including the fat, salt, calorie and carbohydrate content. Before that, information about (2)big-sellers such as the Big Mac, which contains 30g of fat, could only be found on the firm’s website or in leaflets.
在食品业巨头们回击批评意见的过程中,更好的标注方式已经成为他们“武器库”中的一个“杀手锏”。2005年10月1日,世界最大快餐公司麦当劳称,公司将在汉堡包和炸薯条包装上印上营养常识,包括脂肪、盐分、热量以及碳水化合物含量。此前,人们只能从食品公司的网站或宣传品上看到一些销路好的食品有关信息,比如含有30克脂肪的Big Mac。

But labelling is not enough; the food firms know they must also offer healthier fare. McDonald's has introduced salads and fruit to its menus. Kraft and others have brought out low-carbohydrate ranges. Last year, McDonald’s even announced a sporty makeover for Ronald McDonald, its mascot clown, in a bid to encourage children to be more active. But some in the industry suspect that consumers are keener on seeing (3)lighter, healthier meals on the menu than they are on actually buying and eating them; such products are not what the industry calls “(4)business builders”. That said, some of Nestlé’s more nutritional products, like its PowerBar range for athletes, enjoy higher margins and growth than its traditional fare.

Wobbling all over the world
The pressure on the industry is most acute in America, which leads the world in obesity. The proportion of Americans characterised as overweight has risen steadily from 47% ((5)bad enough in itself) in the late 1970s to around two-thirds, including over 30% who are clinically obese. Fast-food chains’ American sales grew from about $6 billion in 1970 to an estimated $134 billion in 2005. Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation”, an influential book attacking the industry, has pointed out that Americans spend more on fast food than they do on higher education, PCs or new cars—worrying, when a single meal at a KFC of less than a pound-weight of food plus a large Pepsi can top 1,600 calories, not far short of the daily intake recommended by the government for adults doing only “light physical activity”.

(6)Where the United States leads, others are following. In the European Union, up to 27% of men are considered to be obese, and almost a quarter of all children are deemed overweight. Britain, with its love of burgers and packaged meals, is seen as following closest on America’s heels, but the rate of obesity has started to swell on the continent too. Some 11% of the adult population of France were obese in 2003, up from 8% in 1997 (the actual level may be higher still since the figures are based on polls asking people if they are fat, and (7)self-reporting produces underestimates). France has *latched on to[3] the fast-food culture: it is one of the biggest and most profitable European markets for McDonald’s.

No wonder, then, that the past few years have been bad for food companies (8)in image terms—and terrible for the fast-food lot. Attacks on the industry have changed the psychological climate in which it operates, and they may yet change the legislative climate too. So far, lawsuits brought on health-and-safety grounds have been more of a warning than a general threat. In 2003 a New York judge dismissed a lawsuit claiming that McDonald’s had misled customers into believing that its food was healthy (though the suit was later partially reinstated). A number of American states have passed “common-sense consumption laws” aimed at deterring obesity cases in local courts.

Nevertheless, some lawyers still see a similarity between the position of food companies now and that of tobacco companies in the 1960s and 1970s, when private lawsuits paved the way for a co-ordinated attack on “big tobacco” by attorneys-general. Worries about rising obesity rates among children, and fear of subsequent legal actions, have caused companies to (9)scale back their marketing of fatty food and soft drinks to minors.

In several countries, government pronouncements and actions have added to the pressure on the industry. The British government’s push to introduce traffic-light labelling comes in the wake of a hard-hitting report from the House of Commons Health Select Committee, whose chairman said: “The devastating consequences of the epidemic of obesity are likely to have a profound impact over the next century.” In France, a law has been passed to impose a 1.5% tax on the advertising budgets of food companies if they do not encourage healthy eating. The industry may claim, with some justification, that ultimate responsibility for bad diet *rests with[4] the individual, and that the amount of exercise you do is just as important as the amount of food you eat. But as long as governments, lawyers and health campaigners continue to pile on the pressure, it will have to work hard to convince them it is (10)doing its bit to stop people piling on the pounds.

[2]and the like: 等等,诸如此类
[3]latch on to: 明白,了解。latch的本义为“抓住,占有,插上插销”。
[4]rest with: 在于,归属于,取决于

(1) 本句中cried foul应该如何翻译合适?这句话笔者译为“大声疾呼食品公司此举纯属犯规”妥当否?难道这里cry foul就是比赛场上裁判“喊犯规叫停”?
(2) big-sellers中的seller是销售商还是销售商品?big是指大型的还是销路好的或者其它?
(3) light在这个句子里的意思不应该是“轻的”吧?我猜想应该是“原色的,基色的,浅色的”,您认为呢?
(4) builder是“建造者”还是“增洁剂”?比较专业,请指教。
(5) 我思来想去,也找不出比“这个数字本身就已经糟糕透顶”更好的译法了,或许还真有更好的?
(6) Come on, guys! 谁能把这句翻译更为贴切、更为通达呢?
(7) 越译越晕,我心里明白这个self-reporting的意思,可是到底怎么表达出来才准确呢?
(8) in image terms,啥意思?我就不抛砖了,免得砸着自己,呵呵!
(9) scale up按比例增加;scale down按比例缩减,那么scale back呢?我想,应该跟scale down 差不多吧?
(10) do one’s bits 我在词典上没有查到相应的短语,不过“bit”一词本身是“少许”之意,我想译为“尽……绵薄之力”应当不坏,您看呢?