London – Vegan junk food might sound like a contradiction in terms but it’s become the trendiest of food fads.
However, those who like to indulge in mountains of cashew cheese and blood-red burgers made of beetroot should beware, a BBC food expert says.
Sheila Dillon, who presents Radio 4’s The Food Programme, suggested mass-produced vegan junk food could become a public health problem as the food industry seeks to profit from the craze.
The broadcaster said consumers should be careful about unnatural ingredients in vegan products.
"It’s an interesting development," she said of veganism. "But I think people should be more cynical about the way the food industry is likely to capitalise on it. You can make vegan junk food easily and you can charge a much higher margin. Look at margarine. It took us a long time to become aware of margarine and what an industrial product it is, and here it is on the rise again."
Speaking to Radio Times, the broadcaster said she was quite health-conscious and, when eating meat, made sure it was good quality. "I’ve never eaten that much meat but when I do, I believe in eating good meat," she said. "I don’t worry about fat. I’ve always eaten butter and I’ve always loved fatty meat."
Dillon has had bone marrow cancer since 2011 but said it was "under control". She took over The Food Programme in 2001 from Derek Cooper, who launched it in 1979. He died in 2014. Miss Dillon said the key to the show’s success was believing that good food was for everyone, not just the rich.
"Derek was first and foremost about the pleasure food can bring," she said. "And he believed that everybody has a right to it – that it shouldn’t be a case of rubbish for the poor and the good stuff for the better off."