Saturday, 9 July 2011


What are cheestrings? They are a highly processed, highly packaged and highly marketed, as convenient and nutritious, food product, aimed at children. Children who grow malnourished and obese on cheestrings and other over-processed, over-packaged, over-marketed food products. If these products, cheestrings included, were really any good for us, would companies have to spend so much money on advertising to tell us how good they are?

Truth is, they're not particularly good. A slice of decent local cheddar is much better. But not as convenient – the touchstone for overworked parents. Not packaged like a Disney-ride – the lodestone for children. And not nearly as profitable – the Holy Grail for global food companies.

Profits at the Irish global food group, The Kerry Group, whose brands include cheestrings, with a head office in Tralee, County Kerry, (52 degrees North, 9 degrees West) in the south west of Ireland and regional offices in the UK, the USA and Singapore, are up more than 11%, reaching €470m. The company, which is still 23.8 per cent owned by the former Kerry milk co-operative, is one of the world's biggest food ingredients and flavouring manufacturers. It is behind household name brands like Denny, Dairygold, Shaws, Michelstown and Dawn and many supermarket private labels.  And cheestrings.
Far outside the current reach of cheestrings are the children at Dadaab Refugee Centre (0 degrees North, 40 degrees east), Kenya. The camp is believed to be the largest of its kind in the world with a population of around 350,000 persons. Thousands pour into it every day, mainly from Somalia, but also from across north Kenya and Ethiopia. It is the ante-room to another Horn of Africa catastrophe, much worse than that which galvanised Bob Geldoff and Midge Ure in 1985, their Live Aid year. 
Twenty six years on and nothing has changed. Drought and conflict continue to ravage the Horn of Africa, while the best post-Live Aid response we have is more aid. And cheestrings. 

Will the major shareholders in The Kerry Group and all the other global food companies transfer their huge profits to agencies working in the Horn of Africa? Is that a cheestrings straw in the wind, blowing drought and devastation across the Horn of Africa?

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