Leading article: A capitulation to vested interests

Share
Related Topics

The food industry appears to have a new best friend in Andrew Lansley. Last week, the Health Secretary promised to refrain from legislation outlawing excessively fatty, sugary and salty products in exchange for an agreement from the industry to fund the Government's healthy-eating campaign. And now Mr Lansley is preparing to abolish the industry's bête noire, the Food Standards Agency. This government's approach to Big Food has been one of zero stick and maximum carrot.

It is true that the FSA has not been a tremendous success since its foundation in 2000. But the watchdog's failures have come where ministers have failed to back it up in its various battles with the food industry. The FSA's regulatory remit will now be split between the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Civil servants in those two departments are likely to be even weaker than the FSA when it comes to curbing the excesses of the industry.

It is important to recall that the FSA was established because of the widespread perception that the government's close relations with the farming industry had compromised its ability to act independently in the BSE crisis. Such regulatory capture is likely to happen again. We recently witnessed the formidable lobbying power of the food companies when they managed to get the European Parliament to block the "traffic light" labelling system for processed products being implemented across the European Union. An estimated £830m was spent persuading MEPs to back a much weaker labelling system favoured by industry giants such as Nestle, Kraft and Danone.

The abolition of the FSA is being justified as a cost-cutting measure. But it is highly unlikely that abolishing the watchdog will save money over the longer-term. Rising public obesity rates, which a properly empowered FSA might have begun to reverse, will put a greater strain on the National Health Service, requiring greater expenditure down the line. This is likely to prove a classic false economy.

The Conservative Party has an unfortunate history of putting the narrow needs of businesses above the broader public interest. David Cameron and George Osborne made efforts before the general election to show that they were not beholden to their party's former friends in the City of London. But their capitulation to the food industry since taking office leaves us to conclude that, when vested interests apply pressure, Conservative ministers are still unable, or unwilling, to resist.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Richard Attenborough, who died on 25 August, attends a film premiere  

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

DJ Taylor
Women were excluded from the decision-making progress in Rotherham  

Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal - the lessons: Asian women's voices go unheard

Joan Smith
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution