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.Not only do the government believe they know how to spend your money better than you do, but they also think you shouldn't be allowed to decide what food you put in your mouth. You're not a citizen, you're a pet. @PHE_uk— chloe westley (@LowTaxChloe) March 6, 2018
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.