Fast food opponents savour taste

"Slow Food" says eating should be enjoyed at a snail's pace Keystone

A group of Swiss food producers and retailers is campaigning against the onward march of fast food. "Slow Food" has adopted a snail as its logo and aims to promote the appreciation of good food produced by tried and trusted methods.

This content was published on August 1, 2000 - 13:12

Around 1700 people in Switzerland are members of Slow Food, which was founded in Italy in 1986. Worldwide, the organisation has about 60,000 members in more than 30 countries.

Its profile has been boosted by a series of setbacks suffered by the food industry in recent years. Mad cow disease, the discovery of dioxins in animal feed, and the row over genetically modified crops have made many consumers much more thoughtful about what they eat.

But Slow Food says the hectic pace of modern life and technological advances risk turning Switzerland into a nation of culinary philistines.

"Our grandparents spent around 50 per cent of their income on food and we spend about 15 per cent," says Rafael Perez, the president of Slow Food in Switzerland. "People are actually eating worse than 70 years ago, and it's not only a case of what it means for them, but of what it means for nature because food is treated as an industrial product."

Members of Slow Food are dedicated to respecting the environment and the making products that use only natural ingredients.

That dedication extends to the enjoyment of good food, and members like nothing better than throwing parties that celebrate fine cuisine and wine, although Perez says this goes against the grain for many Swiss people.

"Switzerland was a very poor country with a poor tradition in gastronomy," he says. "On the one hand there was a poor peasantry with little to eat and on the other a bourgeoisie who thought pleasure was a sin because of the Reformation."

Although Switzerland produces some fine wines and cheeses, it lacks the strong culinary tradition of neighbours like France and Italy.

But this is balanced by a healthy respect for the environment. The Swiss are among the most vocal opponents of genetically modified foods, and public pressure has forced a moratorium on the sowing of GM crops until more is known about their effects on the food chain.

But Slow Food admits it is fighting a losing battle against the increasing public demand for cheap food that is easy to prepare.

"There will be more convenience food", concedes Perez. "But there'll be a large movement of people asking for alternatives. Our task is to show people that the choices they make are important. If they continue to buy frozen pizza nothing will change."

by Michael Hollingdale

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