It’s a measure of just how highly regarded BFree Foods and their gluten-free, vegan and multiple allergen-free products are by the free from community, that when they posted the following tweet a few days ago, the dominant response, at least the one in my ‘circle’ of awareness and online pals, was one of crushing disappointment.
What could possibly have convinced such a terrific brand that it was a good idea to take a trip down Nutribollocks Lane?
Some days on, I still can’t answer this, not for want of trying — culminating in a conference call I had this afternoon with Catriona from BFree and Sophie from Cow PR. This, following the close of their three-day Sandwich Spa pop-up from which this controversy has sprung, which saw them offer beauty treatments along with BFree product-based sandwiches called things like ‘Roll Back the Clock’ and BLT (Beautiful Long Tresses), devised by Julie Montague, a ‘health and wellness expert’.
On Twitter, the brand’s claims that ‘trusted food scientists’ were used ‘to avoid misinformation’ about these foods clashes with some of the assertions that subsequently emerged on their stream — that the tofu in their BLT can restore keratin levels (from what level to what level?) and that the carrot can help with hair thickness (there is no authorised EFSA claim for carrot).
Need it be said, there is no known food which can ‘de-bloat’, either — unless perhaps BFree have taken to spiking their wraps with Deflatine or Alka Seltzer.
During the conference call, Sophie tried to explain some of the thinking behind this campaign. My shorthand is not what it used to be, so this is not verbatim, but am confident in the accuracy of its gist:
The words anti-aging and debloating were used in a PR space and for press, we’re not using them … on advertising or making claims on pack. It was an exercise to bring to life recipes created as part of a [wider] experience. We were giving collagen-boosting facials alongside sandwiches with ingredients … to help skin. It wasn’t about saying eating a sandwich is going to anti-age you.
But it was. The press release I originally received trumpeted: “The world’s first anti-ageing sandwich has been created”.
Guess perhaps those misinformation-blocking food scientists were out to lunch when it was authorised?
I’d agreed to participate in the conference call on the understanding that my questions — about these ‘trusted scientists’, and concerning studies in support of their nutrition claims — would be answered. No studies were, nor have been, submitted to me, and little was volunteered on the identity and qualifications of the scientists, who are internal staff members.
The gist of the defence, then, was that it was a PR exercise to highlight healthy food and ingredients for wellbeing. But BFree could have done that quite easily without the beauty bullshittery. The result is not only quite a few dispirited fans and consumers, but a stream of dodgy mis-information issued over several days, and still begin shared, serving only to reinforce false beliefs about nutrition and health. It has merely helped breathe a little more oxygen into the Instagram-inhabiting wellness industry beast as the rest of us tire of keeping pressure on the pillow.
If you need further antidotes, maybe read what Coeliactivist Carly has to say right here, if only to see her immaculate transformation at the hands of a rejuvenating wrap, and then take yourself to the Metro — for once, and perhaps once only, as normally their ‘free from’ coverage barely reaches the literary quality of a stoned teenager on work experience — where Rosy Edwards has knocked up this terrific piece, and then if you haven’t yet voted in the weekly poll run by nutribollocks-basher Ian Marber, click here to do so (or if you’re coming to this late, to see the results). I predict a landslide. It’ll be richly deserved.