Recently I told you how David Cameron was thinking about introducing a ‘fat tax’ or ‘sin tax’ on high-fat food products like butter, milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed foods in a bid to improve health and combat obesity… meaning a surcharge would be placed on foods that contain more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat.
Last week, I saw another news headline reading: “Obesity crisis solved: Eat less, says Health Secretary”.
I must admit that when I read this, I thought to myself: “Here we go again. I wonder what nifty words of wisdom we can expect from Andrew Lansley this time?”
It turns out that the government has rejected calls to introduce a “fat tax”. (Whilst I welcomed this for junk foods and chemically-treated, nutrient depleted, processed foods… The idea of targeting oils like heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil is just plain wrong!) Instead, the government wants to stress the importance of personal responsibility.
As part of their strategy, they aim to create the ‘right environment for individuals to make healthier choices’: This will include:
- Assisting the food and drinks industry to encourage healthier choices and by cutting calories in products.
- Encouraging people to take more exercise by ditching public transport and walking to work.
- Continued investment in the National Health Service’s (NHS) Change4Life programme to persuade families to adopt healthier lifestyles.
To achieve this, individuals need to be honest about what they are eating, Professor Sally Davies, the chief medical officer said. She added that most people are eating or drinking more than they need to and are not active enough. Finally, she said that healthy eating habits are about what we eat, how we cook it and about portion sizes.
Confusing the issue
That all sounds great… if not a little obvious! But just as I thought the right message from government agencies was finally starting to break through, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition decided to raise the recommended daily calorie intake!
The committee now says average men should eat 2,605 calories (up from 2,500) and the intake for women has also nudged up to 2079 calories… Not a major increase, but I am sure this
will leave many people utterly confused… On the one hand we’re told to eat less – which ultimately will reduce calorie intake, and on the other hand we’re told we should consume more calories.
Where do we go with this information? It completely contradicts Mr Lansley’s statement when he said: “Reducing the number of calories we consume is essential. It can happen if we continue action to reduce calories in everyday foods and drinks and if all of us who are overweight take simple steps to reduce our calorie intake.”
Plus, the emphasis shouldn’t be on calorie intake alone… after all, making unhealthy food choices that still fall within the recommended calorie intake won’t do anything to avoid nutritional deficiencies linked to major diseases like cancer.
Apart from that, I still think all marketing of unhealthy foods should be banned for any target audience below 18 years old… to ensure the foundation for a healthy lifestyle is laid down from an early age… Let’s face it, the food industry is struggling enough to meet their end of the bargain in playing a pivotal part in the ‘responsibility deal’. But I seriously doubt McDonald’s will ever be able to convince people (at least the well-informed) that their meal-deals are healthy!
I commend the government for making the effort to get people to take responsibility for what they eat and to live active, healthy lives… But if they want their message to really hit home everyone involved must sing from the same hymn sheet.
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Public ‘need to be more honest about eating habits’, published online 13.10.11, bbc.co.uk
‘Obesity crisis solved: Eat less, says Health Secretary’ published online 13.10.11, thisislondon.co.uk
‘Why a fat tax will have no effect on obesity levels’ published online, 05.10.11, dailymail.co.uk
‘Conservative Party Conference 2011: fat tax could be introduced in Britain’ published online, 04.10.11, telegraph.co.uk