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

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam