Don’t take the pizza (2)

Well I did say I was going to come back on this sooner, but I’ve been rather enjoying the spat between Devil’s Kitchen and Chris Hutt on the first post. I don’t think you can really argue with the ‘it’s your fault you’re fat’ line, although it’s a bit harsh and some people do really struggle to lose weight. (The Times was rather naughty to use this picture of Andrew Lansley to accompany its piece, and even naughtier to caption it how they did).
According to the Times, the Tories would oppose further bans on junk food advertising and a traffic light ‘warning’ system on high fat, high salt foods. They think that increased peer pressure will do the job instead. So it’s OK to persuade and cajole and nag people, but it’s not OK to legislate.
I can see how this might work for something like binge drinking, where young people could conceivably be discouraged from drinking too much if their peers send out the signal it’s not big or clever (lazy shorthand on my part… it’s late, I’m tired). But doesn’t society already send out rather a lot of not-at-all ambigious signals that being fat is unattractive and unhealthy? I can’t see that it’s acceptable to be obese. In fact I’m sure many obese people encounter disapproval – and abuse – on an almost daily basis. There’s possibly a certain tolerance amongst some parents of their children’s obesity, I suppose.
The Tories are also suggesting a ‘responsibility deal’ with food companies, to try to get them to reduce portion sizes and the amounts of fat, salt and sugar in meals. If it’s the responsibility of the companies to make their products healthier, isn’t that rather taking away the right of customers to exercise an informed choice? Some people would rather eat full-fat desserts once a week than low-fat options every day. (We have some 99% cocoa, no sugar chocolate in the office at the moment; it’s vile. Tastes like turnips).
I actually think producers do have some responsibility in this matter, and particularly a responsibility not to dress their products up as something they’re not (e.g. “low fat” products which compensate by being higher in sugar). I’m all for Government talking to them, and encouraging them to produce healthier food (and reduce their packaging while they’re at it). And I’d rather it was done that way than through legislation – more healthy food, yes, but doughnuts for those who really want them. What I don’t see how Lansley can get away with saying that this approach is any less about ‘nannying’ than better labelling or less aggressive marketing would be. In one case, it’s the food companies (nanny?) who would serve up healthier food; in the other, it would be the consumer who is given the choice whether or not to buy it.
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