Fast food, ID cards and others

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Don't ignore links between fast food and childhood obesity

Don't ignore links between fast food and childhood obesity

Sir: Once again the media industry tries to defend the indefensible. Richard North (Podium, 4 November) firstly claims that media-savvy children are immune to the advertising of fast foods, and secondly that "pester power" is nothing new, and in any case merely provides an opportunity for parents to say "no"!

There is no evidence that children gain immunity from marketing or advertising, especially as many products such as fast foods, cigarettes and clothes are now marketed by increasing the potential consumer's brand awareness, either through conventional advertising or product placement and celebrity endorsements. The fast food producers obviously believe that marketing techniques aimed at children work, because globally they spend hundreds of millions of dollars inventing and applying these techniques. As for the suggestion that a child's advert-inspired pleading for undesirable or unaffordable products is somehow good for family relations, I can only suggest that Mr North has not had this very unpleasant experience, or alternatively can afford to "buy off" his own children.

Childhood obesity, much of it fuelled by saturation marketing of fast food, is pathological in that many of our children are suffering from illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, which previously were restricted to older people. In adulthood many of these now obese children will suffer from ailments including heart disease and cancer. No one is suggesting that obesity is solely caused by fast food, or the marketing of fast food, but the drip, drip of denial from the industry and its supporters of any responsibility for this awful epidemic cannot go unchallenged.

Senior Lecturer in Organisational Studies
UWIC Business School, Cardiff

Sinister secrets of the ID card

Sir: Like anyone else born in Britain before about 1950 I have already been issued with a National Identity Card. I last used it for identification purposes when opening a building society account in September 1996. Using any photocopier it would be easy to forge.

A modern card or plastic version carrying name, signature and photograph would be slightly less easy to forge, but well within the capabilities of a determined fraudster or terrorist. Which is why Sir John Stevens wants cards carrying biometrical information like fingerprints and retinal patterns ("Met chief says compulsory ID cards 'essential' in war on terrorism", 10 November).

Such biometrical information would only be readable by machine and not by the bearer of the ID card. How would I know that the card did not carry prejudicial information about me which could be read only by Sir John and his fellow police officers or by the UK security services? How long before the US security services would want to be able to read it too?

Selective availability of information carried by ID cards would be needed if they were also to function as an "entitlement card" or medical record. Without it my medical history would be disgorged along with my National Insurance number whenever I got a new job.

If New Labour insist on introducing ID cards at £40 at time it will do for them what the Poll Tax did for Margaret Thatcher.

Rochdale, Lancashire

Sir: Philip Hensher's arguments against identity cards ("Britons never can be free if we have identity cards", 7 November) are based on vague anecdotes and scare-mongering predictions. In recent months the following things have happened to me:

The building society with whom I have dealt for some 15 years refused to accept a deposit of several thousand pounds unless I could produce acceptable ID; the branch of my bank where I opened an account in 1964 refused to divulge my current balance without ID; a queue at a local post office was held up for ages while the clerk argued about the ID offered by the person in front of me, who wished to claim a package addressed to him.

In the first two instances the employees demanded either a passport or a driving license, neither of which I habitually carry but both of which I possess. Suppose I had neither? In the third case the hapless customer was asked for a succession of "acceptable" documents, none of which he had, but one of which, if I remember rightly, was a gas bill. To say that I was "inconvenienced and irritated" would be, pace Philip Hensher, putting it mildly.

We do not live in his Utopia where English people have an unchallenged right to go cottaging, have an epileptic fit or put money into their own building society accounts with no questions asked. Instead of having a universal simple form of identification we are subject to arbitrary demands for random pieces of identification which certainly discriminate against the less privileged.


Victims of war

Sir: Perhaps it is time to re-assess the nature of Remembrance Sunday. I cannot be the only one to have been repelled by the sight of the Prime Minister, who is responsible for so many unnecessary deaths, and members of the dysfunctional Royal Family, in whose name they died, laying wreaths. It is ironic beyond words that the people responsible for wars should lead a service of thanksgiving for the war dead. Isn't it time to let those who made sacrifices, or had families who did, take over on behalf of the nation?

Brecon, Monmouthshire

Sir: Mark Steel was right to accuse Haig of serious crimes during the First World War even if his remark about Himmler was perhaps inappropriate (letter 8 November). The likes of Haig (whether English, French or German) sent hundreds of thousands of men to the front line to be slaughtered. These very young soldiers were almost certain to be killed in their futile attempt to defend a few metres of ground, before being replaced by new wave of recruits. Those responsible for sacrificing millions of lives should be regarded as ruthless criminals and not as heroes.

Stevenage, Hertforshire

Private hospitals

Sir: As the husband of a practising GP I'm well aware of how the NHS has to pick up the pieces while the private johnnies pick up the profits. You might inquire of Barry Hassell, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Association (letter, 30 October), if he is clear what members of his association would do if a patient who had had a cataract operation developed an eye infection within 48 hours of leaving their hospital.

If he isn't clear on the procedure then I'm happy to relate the experience of my dear friend. On phoning the private hospital to request he be seen urgently to follow up on their botched operation he was instructed that it was nothing to do with them and that his eye infection was now the problem of the local NHS hospital. He was advised to attend his local A&E.

He was admitted immediately and underwent five days of treatment, nearly losing the sight of the eye. Happily he recovered.

Saltford, Somerset

Humber horrors

Sir: Martin Greensill (letter, 10 November) undermines his case for consigning the term Humberside to history by resorting to hyperbole. To describe the Humberside County Council years as "a nightmare period in recent history" seems a mite over the top. Nightmares produce cold sweats and terror, such as individuals would have endured under Stalin or Hitler Humberside County Council did not quite come into that category.

Sheriff Hutton, North Yorkshire

Sir: While Humberside County Council has disappeared from the local government map, having only appeared with the 1974 reorganisation, the geographical expression Humberside (letter, 10 November) remains a useful means of describing the sub-region around the Humber. Just because a local authority has been abolished does not mean that the language should be impoverished by the suppression of a convenient name.

Merseyside lost its county council in 1986, but the geographical expression Merseyside remains in everyday usage. However, I would not apply the same argument to the name Avon, which emerged mainly as a result of the 1974 reorganisation.

Mold, Flintshire

What about the beer?  

Sir: Your review of "The 10 best gastropubs" (10 November) treats these establishments merely as restaurants. Surely the whole point of a gastropub is the mix of food and drink, of restaurant and pub. No mention is made of the quality of that essential ingredient of a good gastropub, the beer. Restaurants I can find anywhere, but first-class food with first-class beer is something I would go out of my way for.


Rural philosopher

Sir: "The South Downs score highly for their literary associations ... such figures as Hilaire Belloc, W H Hudson, Rudyard Kipling, Virginia Woolf and the poet Edward Thomas" ("The wild, serene Downs fight against protection", 10 November). Please don't forget the near-forgotten writer, philosopher and broadcaster, Cyril "BBC Brains Trust" Joad (1891-1953). C E M Joad wrote most of his more than 70 books from South Stoke, a beautiful hamlet deep within the Downs, near Arundel Castle. He loved the area, and fought unsuccessfully (along with Hugh Dalton) to give it National Park status in 1949.

The Joad Society
Crawley, West Sussex

Bad choice

Sir: "Abolishing private schools will not make a bit of difference to state education" (letter, 5 November). Of course it will. When the most influential of parents have no choice other than state schools for their children they will soon ensure that standards improve, but it is unlikely that they will do so while alternatives exist.

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Road to humility

Sir: "Humble cyclist" Graham Bland (letter, 10 November) nominates van drivers as the most "disrespectful" road users. As an even more humble pedestrian, I feel the words "pot" and "kettle"come to mind, together with a few more which are perhaps not suitable for a family newspaper.

London EC1

In its place

Sir: How appropriate that your excellent and graphically illustrated article on the female nude (10 November) should take up the whole of ... Page 3!

Settle, North Yorkshire