Which? Craft’s First Broom made a Clean Sweep in Consumerism
Eirlys Roberts, “mother of the modern consumer movement and co-founder of Which?”, died recently. The Guardian’s obituary (22 March 2008) to her ended with a tribute that inspires campaigners such as those who support and are involved in VEGA’s cause: “She marked those who joined Which? in its early days with her own values: a passion for clarity and for the honest (and, if need be, courageous) expression of conclusions based on facts, carefully collected and tested. Above all, she had a conviction that good information, put in the hands of the people, could change the world.”
Which? Was launched in 1957. Eirlys edited it until 1973. VEGA’s forebears were involved in the reviewing and testing of household goods and foodstuffs. This was a world that had little of the information on labels that we expect for health and safety today, even though some of the topics remain familiar: the colourings in confectionery and children’s foods, for instance, Ribena being a good example. The Food Standards Agency was still a distant dream in the later-day lentilist’s eyes, and salmonellas, streptococci, and clostridia stole the limelight on the stage of zoonotic diseases – most of them due to meat and poultry – and well before campylobacters, VTEC E. coli, and BSE walked off with such dubious distinctions; but not before the threats of misused farmerceuticals and multi-resistant bacteria (to antibiotics) in veterinary and ordinary medical practice were perceived. The Consumers’ Association is now a close collaborator with the Food Standards Agency.