Amy Jenkins: Now more than ever we need proper junk food regulation

Public health

Share
Related Topics

This week it became clear that the new Government won't be regulating the junk food industry. Snacks such as crisps and biscuits, plus convenience foods such as pasties and pizzas, could all be made with less fat, salt and sugar.

They could easily be rendered less lethal to the nation's health and they could easily be better labelled. The mega-calorific frappuccino-style drinks sold in every high street's coffee franchises, for example, could have a calorie count next to their alluring names on the board. This won't be happening, of course, since that would cost rich corporations money they don't want to spend. It would also make the products less attractive. Instead, the people whose health is suffering from consuming this stuff (mostly poor and underprivileged people) are to be asked to take more "responsibility" for what they eat.

On top of struggling to survive in a recession-hit economy and facing cuts in their essential public services and benefits, these people now have to go online and educate themselves via a tedious (although cheerfully colourful) website called Change4Life. The Change4Life campaign, started by Labour, is now, under the coalition Government, to be funded by the very people who manufacture the food we're not supposed to eat. This is meant to make sense because junk food manufacturers apparently don't regard a healthier lifestyle for the nation as "remotely inconsistent with their long-term interests".

I don't believe that for a second, but what on earth does Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, think the double-speak he reports means? Perhaps it means that the junk food people don't actually want to kill us because then they'd be killing the goose that lays the golden egg. No, they want us to eat just enough to keep them rich, but not so much that we don't live on into old age where they hope we will be consuming their junk as greedily as ever as we totter about on our Zimmer frames.

Moderation is the key, apparently. Lansley said: "It's perfectly possible to eat a bag of crisps, to eat a Mars bar, to drink a carbonated soft drink, but do it in moderation." Well, it's perfectly possible to do heroin in moderation. Not a lot of people know that, but it's true. If you're not an addict by nature, if you're happy and well adjusted and your life isn't particularly stressful, you could do quite a bit of heroin and not get addicted. Of course, a needle full of heroin is quite different from a can of Coke, but consider this. There is a drip, drip, drip every-day poisoning that comes to us from junk food. David Kessler, the former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner who exposed the tobacco industry, has written an exposé of the fast food industry showing how high fructose corn syrup and other additives that make food hyper-palatable are clinically addictive.

Food manufacturers even use this moreish-ness to advertise their foods. Until recently Pringles used the slogan: Once you pop, you can't stop. And sadly it isn't just ad-speak. There's clinical evidence to prove the slogan's truth. High-fat foods are the foods that evolution has programmed us to favour – once upon a time, they were hard to come by. As it's likely to take evolution another couple of millennia to work out these foods are killing us now they're on every street corner, we really need a government with the balls to legislate.

A shame, then, that "public health" Lansley, as he likes to be called, has rolled over on his back in front of the food lobby. His excuse? The same old Tory nonsense about the nanny state. Was it nannyish of governments to legislate so that children didn't have to inhale our cigarette smoke in cinemas and trains? And then, in the same breath as he talks about not lecturing, Lansley covers his back by asking the junk food manufacturers to fund the ineffectual Change4Life, which is all about telling people what they should and shouldn't eat.

He said: "We want to free business from the burden of regulation but we don't want, in doing that, to sacrifice public health outcomes." He may as well have said: we want to have our salty, sugary, fatty cake, but we don't want, in doing that, to eat it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
One 200ml bottle of codeine linctus contains three times the equivalent level of morphine you'd get in casualty if you broke your wrist  

The ‘war on drugs’ consistently ignores its greatest enemy: over-the-counter painkillers

Janet Street-Porter
The author contemplating what could have been  

I was a timid, kind, gentle-natured child, later to be spurned and humiliated – in short, the perfect terrorist-in-waiting

Howard Jacobson
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable