Shopped: The Shocking Power
of British Supermarkets

by Joanna Blythman

Investigative food journalist Joanna Blythman has made her name with her hard-hitting articles and books about the UK food industry. In ‘Shopped’ she investigates the stranglehold that a few large supermarkets have on the food chain.

Shopped by Joanna Blythman

If you have become disillusioned with the types of food which your usual supermarket stocks you are not alone.Maybe you have tried visiting another supermarket hoping that things will be different, only to find the same narrow range of fruit and vegetable varieties, same few cuts of packaged meat and sweaty looking pieces of cheese.Perhaps you have tried a number of supermarket ready made dishes and felt that they didn’t actually taste all that different from one another.

Shopped takes you from the 1950s, when the first supermarkets opened in the UK to the present day situation where recent research shows that 86% of us shop in supermarkets 80% to 100% of the time.

Her investigations revealed how the supermarket buyers bully suppliers to lower their prices (and inevitably the quality) of their products.They chose the fresh produce which they stock not for its taste, but for its longevity and good looks.They throw out thousands of pounds worth of food each day because of the requirement for those fear-induced levels of hygiene.The necessity for storage and long transport distances mean that food is often sold unripe or is not allowed to mature to its full flavour before it goes in the bin.

Have you have ever wondered why supermarket staff so often appear dazed and monosyllabic? Blythman bravely experienced working in two of her own local supermarkets in the course of her research; having worked in a supermarket myself I can endorse her findings on the tedium and mental exhaustion caused by the bright lights and airless atmosphere of those places.And her description of the US-style staff training programme at ASDA is quite unforgettably toe-curling.

To conclude, Blythman notes that if each one of us diverted only 5% of our supermarket spending to our local high street butchers, fishmongers, bakers and greengrocers we could turn the tide of the huge numbers of small shops which close down every year.Just 5%. It could simply mean buying some fruit and vegetables at your local market, your sausages from the butcher, a bottle of wine at a genuine wine merchant and a couple of loaves of bread cooked by a real baker rather than made from previously frozen dough.

And it will taste so much better too.

Shopped by Joanna Blythman is available from and

About the Author: Jacqui O'Brien is the Editor of eParenting.

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