January has rolled around again and as usual, the newspapers start the year by reporting on things that might form part of people’s New Year’s resolutions, such as undertaking to pay more for train fares (always a January favourite of mine) and the perennial lose weight/take more exercise/ eat “healthier” food. This year the headline writers have been given a helping hand by the “experts” at Public Health England (PHE) who have decided that now is a good time to give advice to parents on restricting their children’s access to “snack foods” that are high in sugar to no more that two a day at no more than 100 Calories a pop.
Now that could be sound advice, I don’t know if it is, (although it is undoubtedly bound to be ignored) but can I be the only person the the UK weighed down with an overwhelming sense of irony. This is the same PHE that recently produced the Childhood Obesity Strategy. Possibly the most useless document ever produced by a public body and not worth the title of a strategy.
As I said at the time, faced with the choice of actually taking on Big Food and doing something about this mess, PHE bottled it, claiming it was all someone else’s fault but without specifying whose. Fast forward 18 months and now they know who to blame… its the parents of course. It’s nothing to do with Big Food putting highly addictive food in very attractive packaging and aggressively marketing it to children…. no, no,no… its the bloody parents! Now I don’t know much about parenting not having kids, but I do know about being a kid and I do know about being an obese one at that. What I know is that there was nothing, literally nothing, my parents could have done to stop me eating sugar. If they didn’t give it to me I would buy it and if I had no money I would steal it. This isn’t the exercise of a free will – I knew it was wrong and bad for me – the simple fact is that sugar is addictive and it is relentlessly pushed to children by multi-national companies.
In response to this unprecedented public health emergency (not my words, their’s) the PHE said in their strategy that they were going to solve the childhood obesity crisis by releasing a smartphone app. A smartphone app to take on the hundreds of millions spent on advertising, branding, packaging and all the other paraphernalia that these enormous corporations can bring to bear to persuade children to eat junk… save me… and btw, where is it??
If you want just a taster of how Big Food behave, here’s an article from an ex-sugar pusher in the same paper on the same day as the PHE article – again, without a hint of irony anywhere to be seen.
And finally, just to add to my feeling that we might actually have gone through the looking glass, the Sun heaps irony on irony with its front page, simultaneously advertising the undoubted charms of Joe Wicks and his weight loss strategy and railing against the PHE guidelines as a restriction on children’s freedom to choose to dig their own graves with their teeth. As if they have any choice in it…
Let’s just skip January and go straight to February.