Friday 16 June 2017

Beyond Parody

As the dust settles on the general election result we can see that a period of great political uncertainty lies ahead. But in an uncertain world, the one thing you can rely on is that the public health racket will carry on regardless with their efforts to achieve world domination!

It has become a cliché to say that “alcohol has become the new tobacco” – that the methods used to damn tobacco smoking, and to control the advertising and availability of tobacco products – has provided a template for the same project in respect of beverage alcohol. But the ambitions of ‘public health’ don’t stop there. Whilst remorselessly campaigning for minimum unit pricing as a panacea for all alcohol-related problems, people variously described in the media as ‘doctors’ or ‘experts’ have called for a minimum price on sweets to cut obesity in children. It’s a magic formula you see. As Professor Sir Ian Gilmore of the Alcohol Health Alliance once put it “price changes culture”.

According to the Daily Mail:

  •         Doctors have called for a minimum price on sweets to tackle the nation's obesity crisis 
  •          The move would raise the price of the most sugar-laden snacks in a bid to deter children
  •         Experts believe raising prices of sweets and chocolate is one of the best ways to tackle the problem

All this harks back to what ‘public health’ regards as a watering down of the obesity strategy of the Conservative Government, and represents a further attempt to build on the ‘sugar tax’ on fizzy drinks. It also fits into a wider ‘public health’ agenda to leverage government control on all the “industries of addiction”, which in their view drive ill-health globally, and to force the food industry into a mass reformulation of products. The fight to eliminate sugar and salt from our diet – essentially to render food tasteless – is well and truly on!

The notion of a minimum price for sweets seems to me beyond parody – not least because it is based on a false premise that the numbers of children who are overweight or obese is dramatically increasing, when essentially it has flat-lined. The headlines about rising childhood obesity have one fatal flaw: they aren’t true.

The official figures show that about one in five year 6 children are obese. This figure hasn’t changed significantly in five years: 2010/11: 19%; 2011/12: 19.2%; 2012/13: 18.9%; 2013/14: 19.1% and 2014/15: 19.1% (all official HSCIC figures). Now, it isn’t good that one in five kids are obese at year 6, but to frame it as a “growing crisis” is simply not true. Data from the Health Survey for England going back to 1995 show that rates of obesity among kids aged two to 10 peaked in 2005 and have fallen by a third in the last decade. Among 11 – 15 year-olds, the peak arrived in 2004 and rates have since fallen by a fifth (Diet & Fitness, C. Snowdon).

The number of adults overweight or obese has likewise flatlined at around 60% of the population. Nearly always ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ get combined in order to make the number more scary, but paradoxically overweight people have greater longevity than people of a healthy weight or obese people; suggesting some problems with the definitions!

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the proposal for a minimum price for sweets comes from Scottish doctors – Scotland is the home of minimum pricing and the SNP government is completely in thrall to temperance thinking and more generally to the world view of those who see the food and drink industries as conspiracies that have addicting the population to alcohol/sugar/salt at the heart of their commercial strategies. We’re back to one-dimensional capitalist bad guys.

The proposition for minimum pricing for sweets comes from the Lothian division of the BMA and is proposed as a motion to be heard at the BMA’s Representative Meeting to held later this month. It states:

“This meeting believes in line with rising obesity and increasing burden of type 2 diabetes on the NHS that the government tax sugar and bring in minimum pricing for all confectionary products and sweets.'
The BMA's Agenda Committee has also tabled a similar motion. Doctors will vote on the motions at the meeting, which takes place in Bournemouth, and if approved could become BMA policy.

Beyond parody? You couldn’t make it up.

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