Thursday, 8 March 2018

Eat what you're told

Earlier this week, Public Health England came up with a quite jawdropping list of foods they intend to target as part of a campaign to reduce calorie consumption by 20% by 2024. It covers the greater part of most people’s diets, including such notorious junk food items as fish, rice and pasta. And, if manufacturers don’t make changes “voluntarily”, they will press for legislation.

The whole thing is filleted here with his usual aplomb by Christopher Snowdon, an article well worth reading in detail. He makes the point that there are only three ways to achieve this objective – reformulation, switching to lower-calorie alternatives and reducing portion size. But there’s a limit to how far you can change recipes while still retaining palatability, and how can you actually reformulate fish or chicken? Where “diet” items are offered alongside standard ones, they often achieve only a small takeup, leaving smaller portions as in many cases the only option.

It is difficult to find the words to describe how demented this policy is. Imagine a Soviet commissar, drunk on power and vodka, who had been driven mad after contracting syphilis. Even he would not issue an edict like this. It is off the scale of anything the ‘public health’ lobby has tried before. It represents the final severing of the thread that once connected Public Health England to the real world.
Yes, of course we should be provided with nutritional information about the food we eat and, where possible, offered a choice of portion sizes. But this is taking matters much further, and treating people not as intelligent, empowered citizens but as dim-witted dupes whose diet needs to be controlled from on high for their own good. It’s an unprecedented intrusion into the minutiae of people’s everyday lives.
All those who claimed that the tobacco control template was never going to be extended into other areas have now been left with egg on their faces, although hopefully not too much. It just never seems to stop.

It’s also a reminder that, when it comes to lifestyle bullying, it makes little difference which set of politicians you vote for. What is for certain, though, is that in the coming years our food is going to become less appetising and more expensive, and come in smaller portions. And you do have to wonder whether this will lead on to another attempt to reduce the strength of alcoholic drinks and normalise smaller measures.


  1. A lot of people here in the US who want to impose the nanny state on it's citizenry. A lot of supposedly smart better educated people who know whats best for the rest of us. Frightening. Keep up the good fight Mudge.

  2. The other Mudgie !8 March 2018 at 15:17

    My first though is that each of us has a body that demands a certain number of calories and none of us can change that. My second thought is summed up by Christopher Snowden with his "..... Smaller everything. And if you find the new sizes too small, just buy two". Madness.

    1. Well, that is an obvious flaw in the plan. Some years ago, the health lobby objected to large-size chocolate bars being sold, so the manufacturers just reformatted them as "duos", with two smaller bars in the same pack.

      And, of course, if you cook for yourself, nobody else can control the portion sizes.

  3. There is another way around this madness of course, buy the basic ingredients and cook or bake your own meals. By doing so you will be eating food which has undergone less processing and less adulteration. Healthier on both the body and the purse, and you can produce meals which will suit your own tastes as well.

    Alternatively, as the previous correspondent suggested, just buy two!

    1. Our thoughts just crossed on that point :-)

      Although not an option when eating "out of home".

    2. Agreed, it's not an option when dining out, but how often does the majority of the population eat out?

      The other thing which struck me is the "Nanny State" may well be able to lean on national chains like Mc Donalds, Harvester etc, when it comes to dictating portion control, but there's no way they will be able to enforce these restrictions with small independent pubs or restaurants.

    3. According to this report, 75% of the population report eating out at least once a week, and I'm sure I've read stats saying that around 25% of all meals are eaten outside the home, or bought from takeaways. The rise in the amount of eating out has been one of the biggest social changes of recent decades.

      Agreed it may be more difficult to reach independent operators, but the initiative will be pretty meaningless if they don't. In fact independent takeaways are some of the worst "offenders" when it comes to large portion sizes.

    4. The other Mudgie !10 March 2018 at 01:52

      Yes, one of the biggest social changes of recent decades.
      When I were a lad eating out just didn't happen, well not more than about once a year.
      Now though about once a week my wife twists my arm to go to a pub for a meal.

  4. Syd Differential8 March 2018 at 17:15

    I'm delighted to see that beer,which constitutes the majority of my daily calorific intake,is not on that list.
    Some people describe drinking alcohol as wasted calories.I call it an excellent price to pay for maintaining one's sanity.
    And now to the pub for another 1,000 calories.
    Wahaay !

    1. It appears that chocolate biscuits are fine too. Phew.

    2. Various other categories of food and drink, such as alcohol, carbonated soft drinks, and confectionery, are already covered by other initiatives. This extends it to most of what people eat. Apart from kale. And lentils.

  5. I suspect that by making these outrageous claims the public health lobby is shooting its-self in the foot (except that it wouldn't allow guns of course). By making ludicrous claims such as "no amount of alcoholic drink is safe" which nobody with any experience of life can believe they are causing any serious message- and there are some - to be ridiculed and ignored.

    1. You might imagine that the public health lobby had finally jumped the shark, but on past form I wouldn't hold out too much hope.

  6. The other Mudgie !8 March 2018 at 19:47

    There are of course two ways of becoming more healthy by losing weight, reducing calories and increasing exercise.
    The 'Health Lobby' of course knows it's easier for them to interfere with the food and drink we buy than it is to evict millions of lazy so and sos from their armchair in front of the television.
    Sadly the 'Health Lobby' will never have the guts to suggest that every month we should all spend a day walking round somewhere like Oxford.

    1. Syd Differential8 March 2018 at 22:23

      I took the dog for a walk today.A couple of miles is my usual stretch.
      Then tonight I walked between a bar counter,the outside smoking area for half a dozen roll-ups and the bogs - for about two hours and five pints.
      Then I walked half a mile home and had a couple of slices of toast for my supper which is the only thing I've eaten since a lunchtime cheese roll and two slices of toast for my breakfast.
      Next month I celebrate my 71st birthday and I've never felt fitter.
      The public health Nazis of England can go and shove their mung beans where the sun don't shine.

    2. Don't worry, other M. The health lobby is gaining confidence and it won't be long before all workers will have a compulsory half hour of physical exercise before starting work. And retirees who don't walk at least three miles a day will be demonised and have their pensions docked.

  7. The other Mudgie !9 March 2018 at 20:18

    If it’s not yet been done a talented cartoonist should in the style of Cruikshank depict one from a crowd humbly saying to the towering fat ‘Health Lobby’ spokesman "Please, Sir, I Want Some More"

  8. Syd Differential9 March 2018 at 21:23

    I wouldn't want anyone to think I live a hermit-like existence when it comes to food and survive only on beer and toast.
    Tonight I enjoyed my usual half-gallon and then picked up a portion of mushy peas on the way home enjoyed with two slices of grilled mature cheddar and Marmite on toast.In fact I'm thinking of copyrighting The Mushy Pea and Cheesy Marmite on Toast diet.
    I could live on that for years like a cockroach emerging from a nuclear attack.
    Top tucker.

    1. I might pass on the mushy peas but cheesy Marmite on toast does it for me every time.

    2. The other Mudgie !10 March 2018 at 10:20

      “Like a cockroach emerging from a nuclear attack” – ah, yes, that’s just how I felt very occasionally as a youngster the morning after over imbibing. Too old for that now though.

    3. Syd Differential11 March 2018 at 13:26

      It's certainly how I feel this afternoon after Mrs Syd Differential insisted we went out on the bevvy yesterday.
      Beer,red wine and whiskey flowed from 4pm till very late.
      It has to be done occasionally to blow the wax out of your ears.

  9. The other Mudgie !12 March 2018 at 12:31

    I was fortunate enough yesterday to be in a Proper Sam Smiths Pub paying £2 a pint for OBB, £1.70 less than the Lees Bitter a few yards away, and being a bit peckish bought a 50g bag of nuts for 90p then a 50g bag of crisps for 85p. On both bags were the words "This pack contains 2 servings" but I doubt if many people take that on board and only eat half a bag, saving the remainder until the next day.

    1. That wouldn't happen to be the Vine at Dunham Woodhouses, would it? Crisps and nuts in Sam's pubs are not the bargain that the draught beer is.

    2. The other Mudgie !12 March 2018 at 16:37

      No, it was the Old Boot in Chester, and it made me realise the efficiency of Humphrey's pubs, just one barmaid ably serving maybe five dozen customers all afternoon.
      Just before then in the food-orientated Duttons there must have been a dozen staff, plus those in the kitchen, for two to three dozen customers.
      And Sams will make more on the beer than Lees. Assuming a pint costs the brewery £1 then Duttons charging £3.70 for Lees Bitter will have made £2.70 from me but the Old Boot will have made £4 from the three pints I bought there.
      Earlier we had been in the Pied Bull. I didn't mind £4, £3.60 with CAMRA discount, for both pints of Taurus as it's a proper strength stout. I had the "traditional Sunday Roast with all the trimmings accompanied by a glass of wine" but I don't go to a pub, especially a home brew pub, to drink wine and was then told that the alternative was a Fosters or a soft drink, so it was a glass of pop for my daughter !

    3. Professor Pie-Tin12 March 2018 at 16:51

      Many many years ago four of us shared a house.Imagine The Young Ones and you'll have an idea.
      After a night on the tiles I arrived home with a bucket of KFC and four portions of fries for a group feed.
      Only they too had decided to go out and were nowhere to be seen.
      Fast-forward an hour and all that was left was a pile of bones like you'd see in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
      Mates arrived back with their own takeaway nosebag.
      One is nominated to make mugs of tea.
      Asked how many sugars I wanted in mine I replied " I'll take a sweetener as I'm watching my weight. "
      You can imagine the mirth and ribaldry this caused.

  10. The other Mudgie !17 March 2018 at 14:06

    An old friend of ours, who is diabetic, couldn't understand why she was now drinking twice as much Lucozade. After a month or so she realised that the sugar in it had been halved. So someone who has been medically unfit for work for many years is now having to pay twice as much for what is actually a dietary requirement. For 'the Health Lobby' it's simply "Tobacco bad, Alcohol bad, Sugar bad" and never a thought as to any possible unintended consequences.

    1. It's an important point, that cutting the sugar in these drinks makes them much less useful to diabetics. However, if you're a diabetic, you should only be drinking them as a response to a "hypo", which hopefully doesn't happen too often, rather than as a normal part of your diet. And AFAIK the sugar level has not been cut in regular Coke and Pepsi, so maybe she should switch to one of those.

    2. The other Mudgie !18 March 2018 at 19:45

      Thanks, that's details I didn't know.
      Some people, including diabetics, misuse sugar just as some people misuse alcohol - and then there's no stopping 'the Health Lobby'.


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