Tim Lang really is a ghastly little fascist, isn’t he?

The announcement by Tesco that it will cut the sugar content of its own-label soft drinks by 5% a year was rightly national news. Here was the purveyor of nigh on a third of the nation’s food openly promising a cut that will be barely noticed over time by consumers but will have a positive health impact. This makes public the strategy we call in policy “choice editing”, changing what the public consumes without it being too troubled. If implemented, it heralds the reduction of two teaspoons of sugar per cola can within four years, not to be sniffed at when obesity is seemingly out of control and soft drinks are such a significant factor. This is progress certainly, but not the big change needed; For that, we need industry-wide and national re-orientation involving new policies, firm regulation and tough reformulation standards plus a major cultural change in the consuming public.

New, firm, tough, and by the way, you, the public, you’re not worthy of us and you’re going to have to change too.

The Tesco decision reminds the new government that food and health is hot politics. Government would be ill-advised to see this as the “leave it to Tesco et al” strategy working, which has for too long been the default UK food policy loved by Labour and Tories alike, bowing before market logic, and reducing health to a companies and consumer dynamic. But not even mighty Tesco can sort out obesity. That would require a re-engineering of the entire food system which works hard to over-produce food, and flood markets with ever-cheaper salty, fatty, sugary non-food foods. We’d also need to build exercise into daily living, and curtail out of town supermarkets which can only be reached by gas-guzzling obesity-inducing car culture.

The reordering of society to the wishes of a monomaniac: sure looks fascist to me. It’s most certainly authoritarian, isn’t it?

Those of us active in this policy area (and I declare an interest as one of the “angry professors” who launched the “enough is enough” Action on Sugar campaign in January 2014),

Aka, yes, I know I’m a cunt.

Cola companies have been pushing sugar-free colas as their escape route from blame for decades, but these substitute high calorie sugar for artificial sweeteners, retaining consumers’ acceptance of sweetness as normal.

Can’t even get that right. The sweetners substitute for the sugar. And note the underlying demand there: you, you human beings, you like sweet stuff! Don’t! Because I say so! And, of course, I get to tell you so!

Tastebuds haven’t changed. The nightmare for Tesco would be if consumers simply switch brands, go to other supermarkets or even demand “bring back our sugary cokes” – hence the slow “below the radar” proposed changes. The public health case is simple: what’s needed is a population-wide shift, the gradual reduction of all sugars for everybody, and a reversal of the gradual sweetening of the world’s diet experienced over recent decades. Sugar is put into a vast range of food and drinks today, as is salt. Hence these two ingredients being targeted by public health advocates. They symbolise the world’s uptake of ever more processed, factory-made, instant satisfaction non-food foods and snacks, and the rise of the “permanently eating” culture among those populations who have access and can afford such products.

This is a war on modernity, isn’t it? First time the population has had enough food to be able to eat whatever whenever and we’ve some idiot standing on the tracks of progress shouting “Stop!”.

For government, the big problem is that sugar is but one strand of a UK food policy which has been fraying for years. The last Labour government received its wake-up call during the 2007-08 banking and commodity crisis, when global raw food prices doubled in months, as did oil, on which the much vaunted success of 20th century food policy depends. Oil = fertilisers + agrichemicals + petrol = labour reduction = cheaper mass food.

We don’t make fertilisers from oil, fuckwit. And that food price rise was because of biodiesel and corn ethanol.

What colour footie bags are these people going to march in?

41 thoughts on “Tim Lang really is a ghastly little fascist, isn’t he?”

  1. ‘…and the rise of the “permanently eating” culture among those populations who have access and can afford such products.’

    Funny, there were few starving waifs on the recent ‘anti benefit cuts’ marches & protests…

  2. I have to declare an interest, as I’m a type II diabetic. It is increasingly more difficult to find mass-produced foods without sugar added. Sausages, bacon, ham, any ready-meal or prepared foods, breads of all descriptions, cereals, salad dressings, pickles, even”healthy” ones, cook-in sauces all have added sugar. Eating out is a nightmare, as so much, “home cooking” comes out of the freezer and into the microwave on order. As successive governments have made it practically a criminal offence for one parent to stay at home, hard-working families perforce eat badly as there’s only so many hours in the day and food from scratch take time. While agreeing that we should steer clear of the food nazis, excessive sugar, salt and a host of other flavour enhancers are public health issues and one which deserves far more debate than it gets.

  3. @K.R. Lohse, excessive sugar in modern foods is due to previous health and food nazis demanding that fats be removed from foods. Food manufacturers have to sell their product and the public have to like it so they make it tasty by adding sugar & salt now that fats are verboten. Best thing would be to stop all food nazis demanding their way is best and leave foods to be created in a variety of ways. That way some would have fat, some sugar, and some salt and the public can have a choice and variety.

    PS. Tim, we do make fertilizers from oil. Or more correctly we make fertilizer from hydrocarbons, via the Haber process which uses Methane as feedstock. So Tim Lang is wrong too when he says oil, but what do you expect from someone who twists facts to suit his agenda.

  4. He’s allowed to campaign for change; it’s part of civil society. Doesn’t make him a fascist.

  5. it’s part of civil society. Doesn’t make him a fascist.

    True. But it doesn’t stop him being one. Remember, he’s not “campaigning for change”, he’s campaigning for him to have the power to direct us. For our own good, of course. As “land use commissioner on the Sustainable Development Commission.

    Which, thankfully, suffered terminally from austerity. Somewhat surprising given the pre-green nature of the previous government’s junior coalition partners. Must have sneaked it through in a tea-break.

  6. Nitrogen fertilisers are made from natural gas and are pretty energy intensive to be fair.

  7. They will wear yellow, because I say so.

    They have to show their solidarity with chickens, which are intelligent and sensitive animals, who need support right now because of that bastard pub called Ye Olde Fighting Cocks.

  8. Just one point: we make fertilisers from methane in natural gas, and although that indeed isn’t oil it’s still fossil fuel. But yes to the rest.

  9. Andrew M: Yes it does. He is a POS who thinks we should live as he dictates. Libido Dominandum. His arrogance needs to be curbed.

  10. KR,

    Yes, my wife’s type 1, so I know of what you’re talking about. However, the problem is not added sugar; it is too much sugar. So, for instance…

    > Sausages, bacon, ham

    have had sugar added to them for centuries. Bacon cured in syrup, ham roasted in honey: normal, traditional food, that did not cause an obesity epidemic in the 1800s so there’s no reason to think it’s doing so now.

    > breads of all descriptions

    Speaking as someone who occasionally bakes their own bread, I can tell you this is because the yeast eats the sugar. In bread, sugar is not a flavouring; it enables the biochemical reaction that makes bread rise.

    > cereals

    Again, the sugar is not just a flavouring here. It is in the sweet ones like Frosties, obviously, but your basic corn flakes and Weetabix and so on you may have noticed are crunchy and coherent. To make stuff stick together and go crunchy usually requires sugar and fat.

    > pickles

    Yes, because sugar is a preservative. It’s part of the definition of what a pickle is. I make my own chutney. I’m pretty sure it can’t be done without sugar.

    > excessive sugar, salt and a host of other flavour enhancers are public health issues

    Salt certainly is: I get migraines and eventually collapse if I don’t get enough of it. Thanks to the rabid (and near evidenceless) anti-salt hysteria of our medical community, I had to put up with decades of this before eventually figuring out the treatment for myself. No doctor will actually tell you “You need more salt,” no matter how much you do.

    Anyway, you’re certainly right in general that there’s a load of shit in processed food. Why is that? Well, it’s largely because of bloody “public health” campaigning. There is more sugar in stuff than there used to be, because the diet fascists succeeded in demonising fat. You will notice that all low-fat stuff is high in sugar (you mentioned salad dressing, which should be basically oil, but of course there’s pressure on the manufacturers to reduce the oil in it: hence, more sugar). It’s because people crave flavour. Force the removal of one source of flavour, and another gets put in instead. Now the same people who ignorantly demonised fat and cholesterol and butter have admitted that none of them are bad for you at all and have started a crusade against the excess sugar that is in food thanks to them.

    The fact is that, had you ignored their advice consistently since the 1970s, you would have had a far healthier diet than had you listened to them — and it would have tasted better too. I see no reason to think that has changed. If any of them had an ounce of humility or self-awareness, they’d be a tad more circumspect about their latest demands. But no.

    Meanwhile, are any of them offering compensation to, say, the British dairy farmers whose egg businesses they destroyed on the basis of no evidence whatsoever? Nope.

    What pisses me off most is that these “experts” know fuck all about cooking. You referred to sugar and salt as “flavour enhancers”: well, no. The “experts” have pushed the lie that that’s all they are, because the “experts” can’t fucking cook. Some flavourings — like pepper — simply change the food’s flavour. Neither sugar nor salt just do that: both of them, added during the cooking process, cause chemical reactions that change the food itself. So you see these idiots demanding that cooks stop using salt in the kitchen “because if the diner wants their food salty they can always add some at the table,” as if that would have the same effect. It doesn’t: salt is a part of the cooking process. You don’t sprinkle salt on frying onions to make them salty; you sprinkle it on them to draw out their juice so that they don’t brown.

    That sort of basic cooking knowledge used to be prevalent throughout the population, and it is the systematic destruction of such knowledge by the food fascists that has made diets unhealthy. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they have a point. They are the cause of the problem. The one thing the rise in obesity correlates to absolutely perfectly is their influence on the public.

  11. You don’t sprinkle salt on frying onions to make them salty; you sprinkle it on them to draw out their juice so that they don’t brown.

    Yup: I put salt on chicken when frying it to stop it drying out.

    On the subject of sugar, I’ve been making my own pasta sauces for years, and find the ready-made ones inedible mainly because they taste too sweet. But I suspect if you tried to make ready-made ones without sugar, they too would be inedible. I do use plenty of salt, though.

  12. I used to be a good cook, still used to sometimes put slow cooker on before going to work.
    Wife and I have both been busy working most of our adult lives.Still managed to cook a nice meal in under 30 mins after work.
    If supermarket sauces etc are not suitable make your own. Lots of recipes for low sugar food these days. Can often get sealing jars by the case – cook sauce, seal in jar, leave required period, use.

    I am on a high salt diet, told by my doctor – agree need salt in cooking then I add extra on my food after serving.

  13. “He’s allowed to campaign for change; it’s part of civil society. Doesn’t make him a fascist.”

    Campaigning for strong, autocratic central control makes him a fascist.

  14. And of course as fizzy drinks get less sweet, consumers won’t think to add their own sugar. Coffee and tea have no sugar in them, people add it.

    In Iceland in the 1980s where there was a restriction on alcohol content of domestic beers, I observed that drinkers bought their beer and a shot of vodka and put the vodka in the beer.

    And as for sugar: fruit, vegetables, natural fruit juices… yes folks those ‘healthy’ five-a-days… come packed with sugars.

    I don’t know if it is sheer ignorance or just Fascism… I am inclined to go for both because Fascism requires only dogma not knowledge and understanding.

  15. Whenever one of these ‘sugar is causing obesity, we need to ban it’ guys spouts his ‘wisdom’, Chris Snowden wearily points out that sugar consumption in this country has been falling even while obesity has been rising.

    Chris seems to be in the ‘it’s down to lack of exercise’ camp and decries those in the ‘don’t eat carbs’ camp.

    Me, I’m in the ‘it’s exercise more and eat less, but maybe real obesity, (as opposed to putting on a bit of weight), might well be caused by problems with the gut flora’ camp.

  16. Oh and let’s point out that this whole ‘costing the NHS a gazillion pounds a day!!!’ crap is utter nonsense.

    Those will real obesity, poor things, die young and relatively quickly, thus saving the sainted NHS money as well as saving us all from contributing to their pensions.

  17. @dearieme: yes it really is stunning how the medical profession have just pretended that the last 30+ years of dietary advice never happened, that they have not been responsible for the premature deaths of millions, and the blighting of tens of millions more lives via obesity and its associated health problems. They have utterly no shame whatsoever.

    Indeed its criminal in my view – I’d be interested what the response would be if someone who developed type 2 diabetes after getting the standard dietary advice regarding obesity (cut out fats, eat more carbs instead) sued for the consequences of the bad advice. If you gave such bad advice as a lawyer, or financial adviser you’d end up considerably poorer, or possibly in jail.

  18. @Kevin B: I’d be interested to know whether the falling sugar consumption figures include other carbs. Because other carbs are sugars by another name – our body converts them straight to sugars, and the effects on our bodies is the same as if we’d eaten raw sugar by the spoonful. Thus raw sugar consumption (and added sugar to products) may have been falling, chuck in all the extra other carbs we eat and you might see a very different picture. A portion of chips is sugar, a pizza is sugar, pasta is sugar, bread is sugar. But do those items show up in the ‘sugar consumption’ figures?

  19. Because other carbs are sugars by another name – our body converts them straight to sugars, and the effects on our bodies is the same as if we’d eaten raw sugar by the spoonful.

    Is that true?

    Ie, “slow” carbs / sugar versus “instant”. Isn’t it the “instant” that causes the rapid insulin kick, whereas the slow (such as wholemeal etc) is a slower sugar release, ie causing less yo-yoing of blood sugar versus insulin?

  20. He’s wrong anyway. I have it on good authority that car noise makes you fat. Not my words – those of Public Health.

  21. Carbs do convert rapidly to sugar. I had a childrens’ science book from the 1950s when I was a child, and one experiment in it involved taking a bite of a cracker and holding it in your mouth to experience the sweetness as the carbohydrates break down to sugar due to the saliva.

  22. PF,

    No, it’s not true. Yes, you are correct.

    Sugar enters our blood and stays there as fuel for about twenty minutes. Beyond the twenty-minute supply, we use insulin to turn it into fat for storage. If it takes more than twenty minutes to turn a food into sugar, that will obviously not cause the same insulin spike (and resultant wear and tear on the pancreas) as sugar that is blood-ready when we eat it.

  23. Jim et al, have a read of this post from Chris Snowden which includes this quote from the British Heart Foundation:

    Overall intake of calories, fat and saturated fat has decreased since the 1970s. This trend is accompanied by a decrease in sugar and salt intake, and an increase in fibre and fruit and vegetable intake.

    So, fat, sugar, salt and overall calorie consumption are all down while protein and vitamin consumption are slightly up, so anyone seeking to give a purely dietary reason for the so-called ‘obesity epidemic’ has their work cut out.

  24. Are averages a good metric? Are some people bringing the average down by eating virtually fat and sugar free food, while another peak are bringing it up by eating more?

  25. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I got my fasting glucose and HbA1C within the bracket by cutting down on carbs and increasing protein/fat. I used to be on glyclazide; haven’t needed it in years. Complex, high protein carbs like quinoa are excellent for sustained energy without spiking. I do a quinoa pilaf with minced, sautéed red onion, shredded carrot and toasted almonds as a side for pan-fried chicken breast. Lots and lots of salt and pepper on the chicken breast (which has been pounded out to about 8mm thick, then cooked 3 minutes a side in olive oil as hot as you can get it without it burning. It’s delicious.

    S2 is right about salt as an ingredient rather than a condiment (I think we’ve been here before). In scrambled eggs, for example, a pinch of salt in the bowl before they go in the pan helps to denature the proteins, which locks up moisture. This stops the water being squeezed out during cooking and yielding that vile slop you so often see where a rubbery grey lump of congealed egg is swimming in dirty yellow liquid. When you’re pan-searing steak, a healthy dose of salt applied 30 minutes before cooking while the meat is coming up to room temperature* helps to draw water-soluble proteins to the surface where they can participate in Maillard browning, which is the most important flavour reaction in high-temperature cooking other than caramelisation.

    * and you do let steak reach room temperature before cooking, don’t you, boys and girls?

  26. ‘No doctor will actually tell you “You need more salt,” no matter how much you do.’ – S2

    Mine certainly didn’t. I see low sodium and chloride on my blood report, and don’t get a peep out of him.

    He always chats up my cholesterol, but ignores salt. I fixed my low salt by liberally applying extra to my food.

  27. Something else to consider: the obesity stats could be completely made up. They are in the U.S.

  28. @Kevin B: while that post is very interesting there is a gaping hole in it. Most of those graphs pertain to calories consumed in the home since the 1970s.And the graph pertaining to calories consumed outside the home only related to 2001 to date. I would hazard a guess that the amount of calories consumed outside the home has skyrocketed since the 1970s. How many pizza, kebab and curry houses were there in 1970? Not many would be my guess. I’m 44 and in my youth eating out wasn’t something you did, except for special occasions. You certainly didn’t live on takeaways as many people do today.

    The other thing is that I don’t trust the stats. If you drill down into how there are derived by DEFRA, you’ll see they come from a sample of households who keep food diaries. Now call me a cynic, but my guess is that people who are the sort to keep food diaries are not the sort of people who live on pizza and chips. Or eat curries the size of houses after 10 pints of lager. I would suggest that those stats are true for middle class households, but bear no resemblance of how the lower classes eat. There are certainly 10 times as many restaurants and food outlets in my home town than there were when I was younger. They keep opening, so someone must be eating there.

  29. Many people are funny about food, passionate, obsessed, willing to indulge fads. So anyone peddling a food fad might find it takes off.

    I notice these days that chickens seem to consist only of chicken breast, I cannot imagine that our own poor are numerous enough to consume the remainder of the chickens of which we are eating only the breasts, so I guess they are going into meat pies in Egypt or whatever (global food supply chain).

    I kinda feel sorry for people who only eat chicken breast (that’s a lot of people), the breast is nice, but for best flavour you need skin, fat ( including the juices that run out in cooking), and the other bits of meat – some of the sweetest chicken meat is found underneath the bird. Why are people these days eschewing so much of what of is good to eat on a chicken?

    So many of us really are obsessed with food, I see my compatriots ( thinking women in particular but not exclusively ) looking at food in the sandwich bar / shop / magazine / inet and cooing over it – when they are not even hungry. I wonder about this, because I am not interested in food except when hungry and I’m skinny, so are my mother, father and sister – I guess it is just in the nature of many people to be passionate about food, and others not, cos I’m certainly not. Yet the funny thing is, I LOVE MY GRUB, I really do. I eat when hungry and not otherwise, but I really do enjoy what I eat.

    I could weep, fucking weep at what we do with food in our house ( and millions like us), it is almost as though “she” deliberately tries to take the fun and flavour out of it – nearly all animal fat is rigorously purged from the ingredients. Bacon, yes fucking bacon, is a lean meat round here – for fucks fucking sake – how sorry, bacon without the fat – that’s throwing out part of the best of it. We even had a row last Sunday as I carved (an already lean) pork joint and insisted on making sure that everybody got some of what little fat there was. SHE ACTUALLY REMOVED THE FAT AFTER I HAD CARVED IT. and she thinks she’s right, and she’s fucking ignorant and wrong and fucking fucking fucking ob-fucking-sessed with food – and she fucking wrecks all meat by only buying lean, then removing what little fat there is. She hates animal fat with a passion yet it is a simple truth that lean needs fat, and yet she is aggressive and assertive about spoiling the meat by making it fat-less.

    I’m back (10 mins), karmic resonance, just been called to down to help with the meat pie. Beef pie, yummy, when I arrived in kitchen she was busy ladling the beef stew into the pie dish and pouring off the juice !!!! Yes, fucking pouring away the fucking juice, I won that little battle, the juice went in the pie, but usually I don’t win. Just fished the bag out of the bin for research purposes – 970g of lean lean lean beef for a pie for two people !! This is another feature, aggressive, relentless over catering, her food is often too rich (too much meat or other rich ingredients). Of course we won’t eat all that pie, the remainder will sit in the fridge for a couple of days then be chucked. Seems somehow wrong to complain about the pie she has cooked, but there’s no film of animal fat on top, and to my mind there should be. There’s a bit of fat on top of the juice, but not enough to cover the pie dish, droplets – just fucking droplets of animal fat in a meat based dish of a kilo of meat. The beef that went into it really was as lean as lean can be, and if any of it had had fat on, it would have been trimmed, though for today’s meat Waitrose had done their job properly and there was no fat.

    Gotta go get the spuds out, pull em while still crunchy cos they’ll cook in their own heat some more.

    She’s fucking obsessed, and I’m ungrateful – so goes the world.

  30. So Much for Subtlety

    That would require a re-engineering of the entire food system which works hard to over-produce food, and flood markets with ever-cheaper salty, fatty, sugary non-food foods. We’d also need to build exercise into daily living, and curtail out of town supermarkets which can only be reached by gas-guzzling obesity-inducing car culture.

    He is talking about f**ki ng Cuba isn’t he? Fascism would be a step forward for this idiot.

  31. So Much for Subtlety

    Squander Two – “Speaking as someone who occasionally bakes their own bread, I can tell you this is because the yeast eats the sugar. In bread, sugar is not a flavouring; it enables the biochemical reaction that makes bread rise.”

    Speaking as someone else who occasionally bakes his own bread, I have never added sugar to my bread in my life. The yeasts may eat sugar, but they also eat the carbs in the flour. After breaking them down to sugars presumably. The only reason to add sugar to bread must be for flavour, surely?

    “Yes, because sugar is a preservative. It’s part of the definition of what a pickle is. I make my own chutney. I’m pretty sure it can’t be done without sugar.”

    Sugar in the right concentrations can preserve. In anything but the right concentration, of course bacteria love it. No faster way to ruin food. Pickles, by definition, involve pickling. Not sugar but vinegar or maybe brine. People keep adding sugar to things like sauerkraut and I wish they would stop. Flavour again, because consumers don’t like sour things on the whole. Chutney wouldn’t have had any sugars added in India and in genuine Indian restaurants is often not sweet. It is a British thing I think.

    “Well, it’s largely because of bloody “public health” campaigning. There is more sugar in stuff than there used to be, because the diet fascists succeeded in demonising fat.”

    Absolutely. But this goes back to those cereals for breakfast as well. They taste vile and have little fat. So they have to add sugar.

    “The fact is that, had you ignored their advice consistently since the 1970s, you would have had a far healthier diet than had you listened to them — and it would have tasted better too. I see no reason to think that has changed. If any of them had an ounce of humility or self-awareness, they’d be a tad more circumspect about their latest demands. But no.”

    But no. There we agree. I am reminded of Susan Sontag who said that anyone who read the Reader’s Digest would have had a better understanding of the Cold War than anyone who kept up with academia and the mainstream media. The question is if they are so wrong about this, what else are they wrong about? The Baby Boomers were a terrible generation.

    “Meanwhile, are any of them offering compensation to, say, the British dairy farmers whose egg businesses they destroyed on the basis of no evidence whatsoever? Nope.”

    Dairy farmers produce eggs?

    “That sort of basic cooking knowledge used to be prevalent throughout the population, and it is the systematic destruction of such knowledge by the food fascists that has made diets unhealthy.”

    Don’t think you can blame the food fascists for that. They have always wanted more cooking at home. It is feminism for forcing women into the work force and systematically denigrating home making skills. To the point that modern young girls are often proud to say they cannot cook.

    “The one thing the rise in obesity correlates to absolutely perfectly is their influence on the public.”

    Our ruling elites have failed us so spectacularly. It will take a century to over come the damage done in the last 50 years. If ever.

  32. So Much for Subtlety

    johnny bonk – “it is almost as though “she” deliberately tries to take the fun and flavour out of it – nearly all animal fat is rigorously purged from the ingredients.”

    It is none of my business, and I really feel for your situation, but if this refers to your wife, you are about to get royally f**ked over by the divorce industry. This sort of industrial strength passive aggressiveness is deliberately trying to take the fun out of something you care about. If she was happy with you, she would cook what you liked. So the question is why does she feel the need to act out like that?

    I have no advice except to suggest Married Man Sex Life by Athol Kay (I think) and for you to look to your assets.

    But as I said, it is none of my business.

  33. It might be passive aggressiveness, or it might be simple puritanism. There are large numbers of people, particularly women, who have been taught to really despise fat and feel physically revolted by it, same learned reaction as to tobacco smoke.

    I remember some time ago I was in Marks and Sparks and they were selling “fat free” bacon. Just these sad little pink roundels, utterly pointless.

  34. > Dairy farmers produce eggs?

    I happily agree that eggs shouldn’t be referred to as dairy products, but they are.

    > Don’t think you can blame the food fascists for that. They have always wanted more cooking at home.

    Not good cooking, though. They want special cooking that follows their own new rules. Such as never using salt or butter at all. They have pushed for home cooking while destroying the knowledge that makes home cooking tasty and enjoyable.

    > It is feminism for forcing women into the work force and systematically denigrating home making skills. To the point that modern young girls are often proud to say they cannot cook.

    Yes, that’s a factor too. I find the man is the cook in a lot of households these days. Men love cooking.

    Glad to say I don’t have JB’s problems. Went home a few weeks ago to discover my excellent wife had bought a deep-fat fryer and made doughnuts.

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