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Pigs trotters’ jelly or real “gummy” sweets, anyone?

Poppy Wilson St James is another of our “Designing for the Future” alumni and her final year health-related project is concerned with communicating relevant, but sometimes inaccessible facts about food in original and engaging ways. All very topical in the light of the various recent food scandals.

I was particularly struck by the idea of the pig’s trotter jelly mould. Historically, gelatine was created by boiling the bones of animals, especially pigs and cattle. Nowadays gelatine is still made from the hides and bones of cows and pigs but is industrially extracted. As highlighted by the recent horse meat scandal we are increasingly ignorant of what exactly is in our food and how it is treated before it arrives in shops and on our plates. Poppy believes that by creating a jelly mould in the shape of a pig’s trotter consumers can be reminded of the origins of their food, specifically the intensive industrial processes and subsequent synthetic nature of jelly that removes us from the reality of its source.

Equally striking are the “real” gummy teeth sweets. Sugar has been portrayed in recent years as the root of all current health problems and crises. Whilst there are different studies and arguments about whether sugar plays a part in causing obesity, heart disease and other conditions, it is universally accepted that sugar causes tooth decay. Consumption of sugars, of all kinds including those in dried fruit and honey, leads to acid attacking the enamel on our teeth causing decay and cavities. So why, asks Poppy are perfectly straight, white, pristine teeth shaped sweets sold in sweet shops everywhere? Poppy has created ‘real’ gummy teeth, cast in silicone to mimic gummy sweets from two real mouths, to demonstrate the one definite result of over consumption of sugar – decay and tooth loss.

Both projects raise interesting questions about how much we know about the food we eat  – where it comes from and what affect it has on our health – and how we go about communicating that information. Poppy’s fun approach may well be a good start.