Eating the government way?

 

Eating too much or too much of the wrong things is bad for your health. Is that your business, or is it also the government’s business? Does the NHS have a right to lecture, advise and influence our diets, on the grounds that medics can help us stay healthier if we eat sensibly? Does the state have to pick up all the costs for people who ignore good dietary advice and end up unable to work, needing benefits and medical help?

In particular, does the government have a role in the nutrition of children? After all, argue the interveners, the state should help take care of children in low income families. Children from low income families qualify for free school lunches. Children eat lunch at school under the supervision of teachers. Badly fed children from  whatever backgrounds may not have enough energy for classes, or may be too fat to perform well in PE and sports.

Freedom lovers argue it is no business of the state to tell us what to eat. Children should be allowed to take packed lunches to school if they do not like the school dinner. Families are still free to buy what they wish at the supermarket, and should not be impeded from doing just that. Nutritional theories from the experts change over time. Could there be a danger in too many people backing a particular theory at a particular time?

The benefit system is blind to the causes of people’s inability to work and disability, with no main party  suggesting any change to that. The NHS treats anyone, however they have come by their problem. Treating someone for obesity is no different morally from treating someone with a sports injury incurred by foolish disregard for safety.

How far should the state go in telling us what to eat  and regulating what we eat?

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73 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    I have no problem with food or health education guidelines being made available from whichever Government department is deemed fit to do so, but what we do not want, are lectures and the force feeding of instructions.

    If schools are offering meals, then clearly they should be nutritional, cost effective and cooked well.
    But should they also be offering the opportunity to puchase Fizzy drinks from machines installed by large corporations, from which they (the School) make a profit.

    The problem with advising people on the rights and wrongs of a certain diet, can be confusing.
    Many of us above a certain age will remember the campaign adverts that suggested going to work on an egg was good for you, likewise drinking a pint of milk a day. Both have subsequently been rubbished, and then such advice modified.

    The latest seems to be, five a day.

    Clearly I guess the best advice is eat and drink anything in moderation, but nothing to excess.

    I wonder why people who go to a gym or a fitness centre always want to park near the entrance.
    Anyone else noticed that, how strange is human nature and the way we think.

    The most simple advise for keeping healthy, is to probably eat less, and move about more.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    The state should just charge for the NHS, perhaps issue the odd suggestions for school dinners and the likes (which are often dreadful rubbish) but largely keep well out of it.
    There is no area of human activity which they will not get involved in, regulate and make worse, if some fool gives them the tax payers money to do so.

    Oddly, the state also encourage use of bikes and sports in general, despite the very high risks to health. Sports people in general have far shorter life expectancy. US figures show average elite athlete will die by the age of 67, considerably lower then the 76 year life expectancy of the average American. American Football players have a life expectancy of just 58 years. The figure are very low especially and they have to make it to about 20 just to be one in the first place.

    I shall stick to my gentle walking and try not to get to fat, rather than follow my father with his Football & Squash and thus worn out hips and knees, mind you he is now in his mid eighties. My mother on the other hand is the same age and fit as a flea. Having done no sport at all since school.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

      A sedentary lifestyle is much more harmful than taking exercise and no amount of your propaganda will change this. Elite athletes die earlier? What planet are you on? How many will turn into elite athletes by light exercise? The health of the population is the states business. The next thing you will be telling us that there should be no laws on anything.

    • peter davies
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Your examples of professional sportsmen is not a good barometer to health.

      The reason professional american footballers live shorter (as do professional rugby players) is due to the extreme daily stresses their bodies are put under including the physical hits which are on a totally different level to someone playing sport for an amateur club on Saturdays.

      Someone who does a bit of jogging, cycling and plays 5 a side football is going to live far longer than someone who sits on his backside lives on junk food and drinks too much.

      • lifelogic
        Posted July 25, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        “Someone who does a bit of jogging, cycling and plays 5 a side football is going to live far longer than someone who sits on his backside lives on junk food and drinks too much.”

        Well perhaps, but not as long as someone who eats sensibly does not get over weight and does a bit or housework and gardening the statistics seems to show. Cycling is rather dangerous too about 15 times more per miles than car, more in cities.

  3. Jerry
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    John, it won’t matter how many times you ask the same basic question in a different way I suspect most will give the same answer, the state should usually just educate, not issue diktat, even less force. Now to specific issues raised;

    In particular, does the government have a role in the nutrition of children?

    Yet in the 1980s the Tories presided over the “ripping out” (or at least the contracting out, placing a profit motive before need) of school kitchens, the one place kids often had were both a decent meal was available and -especially in primary and junior schools- were they would be gain table manors. I’m glad that at least some Tories are now seeing that it wasn’t the best of policies.

    Children should be allowed to take packed lunches to school if they do not like the school dinner.

    This is a vexed question, of course kids should have their freedoms but two things are obvious, many children are in no place to make informed decisions and adults have make the wrong choices – when the content of a packed lunch can be worse if the child had gone to fast-food burger outlet or had a chip-butty wedge from the chip shop then something is going very wrong! Also children need to lean that in life they have to do things that they do not like doing, so as long as there is a menu choice, that the food is edible, then perhaps kids normally should not be allowed to take packed lunches. The school teachers will soon pick up on the fact, and the slops bin will soon fill, should the cook not be doing their job properly.

    Oh and talking about PE/sport, perhaps a ban on any more playing fields being sold off, perhaps a stop to the contracting out of local authority leisure facilities etc, sports for all is great but not if people can no longer access it due to there being no playing field or due to price.

  4. Andyvan
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    The state should not tell us anything. It’s entire existence has been one long line of wrong decisions, bad policies and stupid laws. By what logic would anyone take it’s views on healthy eating or, indeed, anything are worth listening to? It’s total inability to run the NHS without killing tens of thousands of it’s victims should surely shake the faith of even the most rabid leftist BBC presenter. If I want to improve my diet I can think of hundreds of sources of information that I’d trust more, McDonalds and KFC would be more reliable.If there really is anyone that is so dense they are unable to decide what to eat for themselves they should be in full time residential care, preferably with nice padded walls and floor.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      If I want to improve my diet I can think of hundreds of sources of information that I’d trust more, McDonalds and KFC would be more reliable.

      Given that the state has to pay for the cost of obesity, while most fast food restaurants profit from obesity levels I’d have to say that McDonalds and KFC may have a conflict of interests regarding what constitutes healthy eating.

  5. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Obesity and Diabetes are inextricably linked. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus progresses as time goes on with the loss of beta pancreatic cell function which produces endogenous insulin. Drugs are escalated and blood glucose remains high however well controlled , vessels are damaged causing eye problems , kidney failure , micro and macro circulatory problems and the end result for those getting fatter is grim.
    Sports problems do not need to be caused by lack of care. Most high impact sports cause early arthritis. These small gymnasts who attempt perfection at an early age will most likely have very early arthritis.
    There are so many problems caused by vascular disease which is insidious in onset yet causes multi problems and not always due to poor diet ,smoking and lack of sensible regular exercise , but rather due to a familial predisposition.

    The state should carry on its campaign to change lifestyles rather than impose difficulties for treatment. As I eat my strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants from the garden, with home grown herbs and fresh vegetables,I use low fat spread and brown whole wheat bread , semi skimmed milk ,drink lots of water , slip on the salt a little, the arthritis from trecking wards all my life still worsens. It is difficult to completely modify everything , so lets be sensible, think individual and allow people to address their own problems with sufficient information.

  6. Denis Cooper
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    There’s a difference between “advising” people about the best kind of diet and “telling” them what they can and cannot eat, with incessant nagging lying in between.

  7. Mike Stallard
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Of course the State has every single right to save our money on the NHS. That is why one of the very best ministers ought to be immediately transferred to being Tsar for Feeding.
    I suggest Eric Pickles.

  8. Iain Gill
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Random thoughts:

    Well firstly food science should be taught properly in schools.

    For two why are you referring to School Dinners as Lunches? Don’t you realise that alienates most of the country? Aint you been on the Conservative party “how to talk down to the plebs without sounding like it” training?

    School dinners were and are rubbish, like anything provided by the state or as a monopoly. I survived on crisp sandwiches from the local shops and would probably do the same today if I were a school kid.

    It would be easy to provide some healthy recipes and ingredient lists for packed lunches, it would probably cost nothing more than a few quid and stick it on a website somewhere?

    Re “Nutritional theories from the experts change over time” oh yes as do planning fashions (remember the fashion for building council housing tower blocks), road safety fashions, and so on, doesn’t stop the politicians following the latest fad and forcing it on the rest of us in other parts of life does it?

    Re “How far should the state go in telling us what to eat and regulating what we eat?” some stuff would be easy, ban sugar in children’s breakfast cereal, ban fizzy drink dispensing machines in schools, etc much of which I would support.

    Telling decent adults what to do should be minimised as much as possible, the government already does far too much of that.

    Re “The NHS treats anyone” no they don’t, they didn’t treat my father they let him die and just handed out morphine – that is not treatment. They make value judgements all the time about who they will save and who they will let die, they are just not honest about it, and it’s hidden from view mostly. The prejudices of the consultants and managers and their view of your status and worthiness have a large bearing on your likely outcome from an encounter with the NHS.

    But good to see you raise these issues.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      I am sorry that you have witnessed this. I feel the same happened to my mum. A dissertation of mine 1n 1997 addressed this problem. Should we not have an ethics group on site for all these important decisions with family involvement.

  9. English Pensioner
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Other than the injunction not to get overweight, the advice from experts seems almost to vary from day to day. But surely the question should be “Does anyone listen or take notice of the government’s advice?” There has been more than enough publicity about obesity, and yet it is claimed that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, which seems to indicate that a large number of people simply don’t listen or don’t care.
    I take the view that with lifestyle related illnesses like obesity, people should be treated ONCE by the NHS to get themselves back on track, but if they then ignore the doctor’s advice, they should not receive further treatment. The same argument should apply to drinkers and drug takers, we will sort you out once, and once only.
    If, like many countries, we had an insurance based system, the insurer certainly wouldn’t pay for a second round of treatment for a preventable condition, nor should the NHS.

  10. a-tracy
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I hate all of this the State knows best. My children all had school dinners at their Primary School until Jamie’s Oliver revolution gave the caterers carte blanche to restrict the menu. Prior to the dinner revolution we were provided with a menu the week before which we selected their meals for the following week to help with planning ingredient numbers and to ensure the child had a meal they could enjoy. Afterwards there were two options whatever they chose to serve that day or the vegetarian option and you couldn’t flit between the two. My son had to stop taking school dinners because he doesn’t like red meat (especially mince), however, he does like chicken and fish and didn’t like having vegetarian substitute food all the time especially the meat substitute meals as it was the taste of red meat he didn’t like rather than the principal of not wanting to eat meat.

    We go down a slippy slope as well if we start deciding what the NHS can treat or not through personal lifestyle choices, should be not treat motorbike riders because their chosen transport means is dangerous and when they wear solid black garments people don’t see them as highly visible, the same with cyclists? Do we charge horse riders who have accidents on horse back the majority of us don’t ride? Do we make sky-divers self insure for medical accidents, or athletes? Sooner or later your personal hobby or interest will appear on that list of banned treatments!

    Medical opinion used to tell pregnant women to eat liver whilst pregnant, Do politicians really want the responsibility of telling people what is good for them. The majority know about balanced diets they are taught in school, an improved home economics curriculum featuring healthy low cost meals, instead of teaching teenagers how to make nachos and pizza is more of a priority to me.

  11. Richard1
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    It is sensible to make fact-based advice available to the public. I think it is also sensible to use the tax system to raise revenue from ‘bads’. VAT on unhealthy food and drink would serve 2 useful purposes. Right now its difficult to know what’s healthy and what’s not.

    But there is far too much posturing by ministers on subjects which don’t concern government and where all they want to do is appear righteous and win plaudits from the PC commentariat. Maria Miller and the absurd ministry of culture stand out in this. It is no more the government’s business to comment on golf club membership rules than it is their business to instruct people whom they should or shouldn’t invite into their own homes. Its a pity David Cameron also feels the need to go in for this sort of nonsense. He’d do better to close the DCMS, terminate its staff (including the ministers) and save some taxpayers’ money.

  12. Magnolia
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    People would soon make genuine efforts to lose weight if they had to pay a small contribution towards their NHS use if excess fat were thought to contribute to their health problems.
    Slim people make an effort to keep extra weight at bay. They are not just ‘lucky’.
    Excess weight leads to prolonged morbidity which is expensive for the state.
    Smokers probably save the country money because they die so early.
    All tax on food could be removed to compensate.
    Children need protection from heavy state control and from poor parenting.
    I would like government to replace Child benefit with a free wholesome school meal for every child, to include holiday periods if there is a demand. The make up and delivery of the meal should be decided by each school in consultation with the children and parents. No banning of packed lunches, but the family would have to pay for these themselves. This would ensure that CB money turned in to healthy growing kids and there would be no shame in taking the ‘free’ meal for poor families.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Where exactly will these children get these “free meals” during the holidays? Will the school pay for extra staff and the cost of the children’s travel to school for their “free meal”?

      The current system of child benefit is far better than trying to make schools into surrogate parents.

      • Magnolia
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        Costs of meals during school holidays need not involve anything more than the costs of the basic foodstuffs and energy/water used to prepare them. The parents could get together and organise themselves in to a volunteering body which take over the school kitchens during holidays to provide the labour themselves with some minimal legal oversight and permission from the school governors and the teachers. Meal times could be on a flexible rota to allow for working parents. Parents can add to the costs of the food so that they can eat with their own children.
        At a secondary school there should be no shortage of older pupils with culinary skills to donate as volunteer workers and the local colleges could also get involved with school kitchen voluntary work placements for their catering students during the holidays.
        Schools will eventually be free to organise their own term times and the free meals delivery could be taken in to consideration along with teaching needs.
        The meal requirement would be set by each school in the same way as the uniform presently is. Complete freedom for the school.
        I believe that the state would pay less overall and tax-payers would get a better deal for their money. It might also improve the local sourcing of food.

        • uanime5
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          1) Most parents work during the schools holidays so they won’t be able to help out.

          2) A flexible rota is useless if the parents can’t get time off from work to drive to school, prepare a meal, and then drive home.

          3) Cooking for about 700 children is both difficult and time consuming, so don’t expect there to be volunteers on a daily basis.

          4) You’re not factoring travel costs. For many people travelling from work to school or home to school isn’t free, so having to go to schools for a meal will be expensive.

          5) If the state pays less overall then this means that you’re effectively cutting child benefit, which will push more children into poverty. Impoverish children is nothing to be proud of.

          While you idea might work if all parents and children lived within walking distance of a school given that most parents work a considerable distance from this school, and many children need to take a bus or train to get to school expecting everyone to bear the cost of getting to school in exchange for a cheap meal is nothing more than wishful thinking.

          • Magnolia
            Posted July 24, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

            This is my last reply because Mr Redwood will get fed up!
            A well reasoned response but one which I still disagree with.
            The ‘free’ school meal need not be provided at lunch time during the holiday period. As I said, a flexible rota would allow an evening meal so that working parents could get involved at the end of the working day. Travelling costs are an issue but holiday meals could be arranged with the nearest school rather than the child’s ordinary school. Extra walking because of school meals will be good for everyone. If there are no willing volunteers or take up then there cannot be a need for the service so why should the state pay for it. I believe that families should be free to spend their own money how they wish but Child Benefit money is state money, which has been donated by tax-payers who have had to earn it. Some will view it as as a repayment of tax already paid in but that’s not the point of a benefit.
            There would hopefully be savings to the state from the change but the costs might be neutral overall. I think the children would benefit most of all because the money would always be spent on them (providing it was not siphoned off in to general school funds) and there would be no danger of it getting lost in the parents ‘treats’ budget.
            Surely we can both agree that the children would benefit?

        • Bazman
          Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          Magnolia Child benefit is a universal credit. Most people work and need the extra money to keep a roof over their heads and paying bills not spending on some mumsy middle class fantasy telling them what to spend it on. The answer is free school meals for disadvantaged children which is what we have got and some social engineering during these meals which is what happens at least in infant and junior schools. The problem is during the school holidays and putting middle class ideals on non middle classes never produces any good. Flexible rota for parents who work? Absolute twaddle.

  13. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    All I want a government to do is make sure ALL the contents are clearly labeled, Nothing else like traffic lights and warnings. I will make up my own mind.
    Again they should leave us alone. Its not so much a nanny state as a bully state. Cameron is as bad as anyone.

  14. Atlas
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Providing information is one thing – enforcing a particular regime is quite another.

    Nanny knows best – or is it called Nudging these days in the trendy No 10 Offices?

    If the likes of Osborne can afford to pay an arm and a leg for a ‘healthy’ hamburger – then don’t forget that the rest of us are not so well remunerated to finance such choices. The ‘quality’ of food consumed is a strong function of price.

  15. oldtimer
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    In WW2 the government published a (still) useful leaflet on healthy eating. In essence it recommended a balanced diet. IIRC it was part of the plan to encourage people to grow their own vegetables when food was in short supply. In those days many food products were severely rationed. Children received free milk at school – though I cannot drink milk by the cup or glass without wanting to be sick, I could just about manage with a straw.

    The WW2 measures were appropriate to the circumstances. I am much more wary of studies which purport to recommend for or against particular foods or drinks. These are a feature of contemporary life and seem to support fad eating and drinking. Furthermore the advice seems to change from one year to the next so that product x, that was said to be good for you when they promoted their research three years ago, now turns out to be thoroughly bad for you according to the research findings of another research group. I note that they rarely, if ever, produce the data on which their findings are based. It is all too easy for such findings to be used by self appointed busybodies to try to pressurise government to promote this or to ban that. Government should stick to promoting the idea of a balanced diet and stay away from contemporary fads and the activities of these single issue pressure groups.

  16. StrongholdBarricades
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Advice and education is good to receive, but why would anyone sanction personal choice?

    To become knowledgeable, first you have to be allowed to make mistakes

  17. Vanessa
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    This is just a continuation of the “nanny” state. If the government involves itself with every aspect of our lives (a bit like the EU) it costs money and the state will never reduce.

    It is about time the government stopped treating us (who pay it the money is so stupidly spends) as if we are all 6 year olds. It is us who are better and able to run our own lives and families. You only have to look at past things governments have taken control of to see what a complete mess they make of it. STOP MEDDLING.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      Given that the average person has the reading age of 12 year old and hundreds of people injure or kill themselves due to making poor decisions it seems that some people lack the information needed to run their lives effectively.

      • Vanessa
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        Then it comes down to education – as most things do.

  18. Chris S
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    No Ministers of this or any previous Government has ever been prepared to stand up and admit that the social problems in the UK are not with “Low Income” families.

    The problems are with families that have parents who are poorly educated or are of lower than average intelligence. In many cases, both apply.

    Anyone taking the trouble to read this blog knows that parents on low incomes can easily feed their family with a healthly diet at considerably lower cost than by supplying them with junk food and ready-made meals.

    If the cause of their low income is unemployed they obviously also have the time to prepare healthy food but most chose not to do so or don’t know how to.

    It is also obvious to anyone of even moderate intelligence that if you have a family to feed and your income is low, your priorities should not include smoking, drinking and/or drugs. Or keeping large dogs for that matter.

    Low intelligence and/or poor education cause the real problems in our society and with the increasing complexity and technology the situation is going to get worse. Nevertheless, it is these issues that need to be tackled.

    Handing out taxpayer’s hard-earned money in the form of cash benefits is a sticking plaster that does nothing to solve these problems.

    An education program backed up by food stamps that are exchangeable only for healthy food would be a start.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      Given that healthy foods are often more expensive than their non-healthy counterparts many people on low incomes often have no choice but to eat unhealthily.

      While the unemployed have more time to prepare healthy food as they’re usually unable to afford healthy food or anything that can be used to prepare food. Thus it’s hardly fair to blame them for not eating healthily.

      Given that most technology is now far more simple to use than it was 10 years ago it’s now even easier for people of low intellect to use technology.

      Finally food stamps have been proven time and time again to be completely useless, as people usually sell them and use real money to buy what they want.

      • Deborah
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

        Nonsense. Healthy food does not need to be more expensive than unhealthy food. Vegetables are very cheap and, along with cheaper cuts of meat, can make enjoyable healthy meals at a very low price. If people on low incomes live on processed rubbish it is through choice or ignorance, not because they can’t afford to do otherwise.

        • uanime5
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          Unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy food because it’s bulked with whatever is cheap to use (such as fat and sugar). If healthy food was cheaper then the healthiest foods would also be the cheapest.

          • Bazman
            Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            Pre packed and prepared foods are more expensive as this is how the value is added in most cases. A cooked or pre cut chicken is always more expensive than a raw whole.

    • Bazman
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:41 am | Permalink

      Social engineering is what you are saying and there is some truth in this. However, how do you square off you freedom fantasy with this? Food stamps are a stupid idea as they would be sold for beer money to people like me who would buy them or sell them if I to many.

      • Chris S
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

        If the person spending the food vouchers had to show photo ID at the checkout there would not be a big problem.

        But if you can come up with an alternative to food stamps, I’ll go with it but carrying on handing out cash that just gets spent on booze and fags is not a sensible policy.

        It’s our tax money that’s being handed out to benefit claimants here and we are also paying for their higher than average demands on the healthcare budget.

        We are already being told that we are looking at a £20bn shortfall in the NHS budget by 2020 :

        I would much rather see a move away from “free” healthcare at the point of use but as that’s not going to happen any time soon, he who pays the piper has every right to demand a say in how the money is spent.

        • Bazman
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

          Photo ID. Vouchers policing off selling said goods where is this police state going to end and how much will it cost? Not to mention the moral questions of telling the poor what to spend their money on. Yes. Their money.

        • uanime5
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          Where exactly is a person going to get a photo ID? You can’t use a drivers license or passport because not everyone has them. They’re also not free to renew so requiring the unemployed to purchase something simply so they can get food is highly unethical.

          Your photo ID plan also doesn’t prevent people buying food using food stamps then trading this food for booze or fags.

          Finally the onus is on your to come up with good reasons to use food stamps, not Bazman to come up with an alternative to a problem you claim exists.

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        You really are a case. Te He.

        • margaret brandreth-j
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          My comment was made for bazman here not Chris S

  19. colliemum
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    One of the favourite cries of the left for introducing new state regulations/legislation is ‘think of the children!’ . Such cries treat parents as stupid, unthinking sheep who can’t be trusted to do anything right. See the recent cries by vested interests to have A&E departments report sunburnt children’s parents to social services for child abuse. See also the current attempt by Cameron for a blanket regulation on search engines to block access to ‘adult’ sites.

    You ask “How far should the state go in telling us what to eat and regulating what we eat?” The adult answer would be to tell the state to keep well out of all that!
    I can’t help feeling that there exists a combination of civil servants and left-wing politicians who hanker back to the good old days when food and other things were strictly rationed, and that they won’t rest until we all have our ration cards, for food, fuel, clothes …

  20. M Davis
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I believe that children should be taught in school about nutrition. Apart from that the State should mind their own business and concentrate on getting this Country back on its feet again.

  21. lojolondon
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Excellent question, John!

    To answer your question, if the taxpayer is paying for people to be cared for, the taxpayer is entitled to insist they look after themselves. If people look after themselves they can do whatever they like, with freedom comes responsibility and liability.

    If everyone paid for their own health care then the whole system would work automatically. Private healthcare gives you a discount for quitting smoking, drinking in moderation, and taking and using a gym membership. So there is a financial incentive as well as health incentive for people to look after themselves.

    Unfortunately here, some sad people’s social lives revolve around their personal problems, how fat and lazy they are, how they can’t give up smoking / drinking / food, and how many times they have been to the doctor in the last month. This is partly caused by the fact they get attention from the doctor, talk to someone who cares for a few minutes (I really mean to say this with concern, they are sad people!)

    Overworking the NHS and all the symptoms you describe above would all be cured at a stroke, just charge a tenner per visit, to be collected when they make the appointment.

    Simples 😉

    • Bazman
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:32 am | Permalink

      Simples from a simpleton. Charging for the doctor would just lead to peole not going to their GP until the problem was much worse and do tell us how everyone can pay for their own healthcare? In fact they do via National insurance contributions. The dentistry part of the NHS with most of it private is an example of how it should work is it? Financial incentives are not the answer to everything.

  22. alastair harris
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Am I alone in thinking the world has gone mad? In the world of project management they call it scope creep, but I suppose Parkinsons law covers it just as well; or perhaps Jobsworth sums it up better?
    The answer is to reduce the number of MPs (about 150 or so should do it), and keep them busy with the job of getting rid of jobsworth laws – payments by results and no patronage.

  23. alastair harris
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Ok –
    government has no role in telling us what to eat. The purpose of the health service is to pick us up and patch us up – not to act as a nanny
    obesity is not an illness – just the result of eating too much over time. We should be free to eat too much over time, but equally we should be free to take responsibility for the consequences. There is a mechanism for dealing with this problem – its called natural selection – Darwin described it quite well!
    children are the responsibility of their parents. In terms of what they eat at school then this is a contract between parent and school – no business of the government.
    The government does have a role to play in regulating the food industry. If its sold as beef, but it is horse, then we would expect regulation to stop that, or at least deal with it when it is found. Hygene, certification, policing regulation, are all functions which they government should provide. Strange policies like 5 a day – reduce salt, increase salt, etc; are not something government should indulge in – regardless of how load those lobbyists shout.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Given that obesity currently isn’t preventing the obese from reproducing it’s clear that natural selection won’t end the obesity epidemic.

      Also the lobbyists you’re referring to are doctors who are trying to prevent people from becoming unwell.

  24. Mike Wilson
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    All these threads have one thing in common. If I make the effort to eat healthily, do some exercise and generally make an effort to look after my health, should I pay taxes to look after the people who have become ill through eating rubbish, eating too much of it and living sedentary, lazy lifestyles?

    Who knows? I do think we all ought to have a compulsory visit to a doctor once a year for a check on weight, blood pressure blood test for cholesterol. If, after say 3 annual visits, you have not lost weight/got your blood pressure down/got your cholesterol down – you have a medical card tagged and are told you have to pay for a percentage of any treatment for conditions to do with general indulgence/idleness.

    I can already hear the howls of protest – even from me.

    Maybe an insurance based health service would be better. Insurance companies would have no trouble jacking up the premiums for those who live on pizzas.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      The problem with health insurance is that the Government has to provide this to everyone who can’t afford health insurance. So expect the Government to get stuck with all the people who live on pizzas, while insurance companies only have to deal with healthy people.

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      You may have guessed I am a Nurse practitioner and have practised all my life. I run many types of clinics including those which run general health checks. Do you realise that we have a practice population and we have targets to meet. We by NHS recommendations and performance indicators have to ensure that we check peoples weight , blood pressure , circulating lipids at least once a year. If the blood pressure and cholesterol is raised then we have to give lifestyle advice, prescribe medication to lower the BP and much more. If the Practice does not meet the targets , then WE are penalised as we are not paid for those patients lack of concordance.
      I also run diabetes clinics , COPD and asthma clinics and many more. There are thousands like me who have studied hard and respect the patient. The ideas that you are throwing out have been on going for at least 10 years. It is the Nurse general practitioner you will find take the degrees and have studied for many years to take their place aside doctors in practice.
      The of course we have those specialists in diet like dieticians who have also taken degrees in specialist and general nutrition .In fact we work together as a team to promote better health . No one person is superior to another.

  25. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    We can’t have it both ways. If the NHS treats illnesses caused by obesity free of charge at the point of consumption, it has every right to urge us to modify our behaviour.

    It is, however, a futile exercise. Far better to end free health care, let everyone take responsibility for his/her health, and let the State then mind its own business.

    One general point, applying to many different sectors of the economy: is it legitimate to wreck markets just to provide for the poor? “The poor are always with us.” Yes, especially if you indulge them.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      @Lindsay McDougall: “We can’t have it both ways. If the NHS treats illnesses caused by obesity ..//.. Far better to end free health care, let everyone take responsibility for his/her health, and let the State then mind its own business.

      Well considering that obesity can be the illness or a sign of an illness beyond laziness or the wrong diet all your suggestion would do is likely scare such people way from getting the treatment they need…

  26. rd
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    It’s horses and water… you can lead them water but not make them drink. The Government and charities and whoever else can only ever advise. You do not have the right to control a persons eating habits and to attempt to do would be cost prohibitive.

  27. David Hope
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Really depends on the costs for me and if it results in legislation.

    I have no issue with a prominent doctor who continually sees people with illness related to obesity, talking in the media about it.

    However I do object to government using health issues as an excuse for a new tax (these things are never offset elsewhere) . I also object to large amounts of money being given to promote health campaigns and funding expensive research into people’s general health (obviously not into genuine illnesses).

    The fact is that people know that cakes are bad and carrots are good. We don’t need expensive campaigns to tell us.

    I wonder how lower life expectancy offsets higher costs whilst alive for the very fat or unhealthy. If it doesn’t then maybe we shall have to move to some form of means testing for those who don’t look after themselves and only offer the most basic cheaper treatments.

    • uanime5
      Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      One of the main costs of treating people with obesity is that they require more sturdy hospital beds, larger ambulances, and wider diagnosis machines. Layers of fat also make surgery more risky. So only offering basic treatments won’t reduce their cost to the NHS.

      It would be far better to just give them a gastric band so that they’ll lose weight and any other health conditions will be cheaper to treat.

  28. outsider
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    1) For decades, health and diet professionals have extolled the virtue of oily fish high in “Omega3”. This suits me as I greatly enjoy salmon, trout and herring. Last week a study published in the journal of the US National Cancer Institute was reported to find that Omega3 was linked statistically to much higher rates of prostate cancer. That finding may well fail to stand up to scrutiny but who knows?

    2)I kept my father’s 1961 “healthy diet” book, co-authored by the leading professorial authority of the day. The preface says that you can eat as much as you like of “meat, fish, eggs, butter, cream, margarine”. Among its recommendations for a healthy packed lunch are scotch eggs and cold sausages split and filled with slices of cheese.

    3)Just last year the BMJ carried an article in which a leading (knighted) epidemiologist called for all people over 50 to be put on statins for life to slash deaths from heart disease. Yet doctors are already finding that a significant minority suffer debilitating side-effects from taking statins.

    It is good for as many people as possible to be informed about healthy diets and lifestyles, based on current knowledge consensus. The “five-a-day” campaign seems helpful. For governments to go any further in response to lobbying is foolish, dangerous and oppressive.

  29. Chris Rose
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    The Government should get out of the Advice Business.

    Particularly with diet, there are all sorts of sources of information and advice, recipes, pet remedies and goodness knows what, much of it contradictory, but much of it worth trying. I see little evidence that advice coming from government sources is any sounder than that coming from elsewhere. Even government guidelines on the recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals are much disputed, even though they been around for decades, certainly since the Second World War.

    Over the years, I have altered my diet considerably and greatly benefited from doing so. In the end we all have to form our own opinions, decide what we want to eat and accept responsibility for our decisions. With the Internet, there is a huge amount of data easily available to us.

    If we don’t expect people to make use of the information available to them, what incentive is there for them to learn?

    If there is solid evidence that people really do modify their diets after talking to NHS nutritionists, then perhaps we should to keep them, but I doubt if they contribute to our well-being.

  30. Robert K
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    The state should not tell us what to eat, drink or smoke. The logic for it doing so is the NHS – since the NHS has to pick up the bill, politicians and the medical establishment can revel in hectoring.
    But people should take responsibility for their actions. If you break your leg in a skiing accident the French Alps you need to pay the medical bills. That’s why you need insurance. Why not the same if you fall off a cliff in the Lake District?
    People suffering from alcohol and smoking related health problems pay their own form of health insurance – excise duty. More money is raised in tobacco tax in the UK than is spent on treating smoking related disease.
    Food, rightly, is not taxed. But if people eat too much of it, why should they not be expected to contribute proportionally to their healthcare? In the private sector, a smoker/drinker will pay higher premiums than someone who is teetotal.

  31. Martin C
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Proliferation of moral busybodies: a sure symptom of an over-bloated state with far too many people, paid for out of the public weal, seeking somebody to order around.
    I think C. S. Lewis put it best: Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

  32. Denis Cooper
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Off topic – indignation at the Independent:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/consumers-to-pay-dirty-coal-power-subsidies-for-years-8724925.html

    “Consumers to pay ‘dirty’ coal power subsidies for years”

    “Setback for Britain’s carbon emissions targets as ministers choose cheap alternative to gas to meet energy demand”

  33. Ludwig
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Every day we all need to weigh up how much risk we are willing to take. If eating a particular food or smoking, or doing a particular sport etc. raises the chance of an early death by 70% then most (not all) people would refrain. If that chance is lowered to 7% then many more people might indulge, and so on. The only job of the State is to make sure that we receive the necessary information to make that choice, whether that be by a national campaign or by compelling private companies to disclose relevant information. However, it is absolutely NOT the role of the State to compel us to avoid any kind of risk, otherwise we may as well be dead.

  34. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    A real difficulty with all life style advice is that not all people are affected the same way. Some smokers experience no health problems. Some people can drink ‘unwise’ amounts without problems. We probably all know of elderly people who eat nothing but bacon and potatoes fried in lard. Some people carry extra weight easily. The blood pressure of around a third of people does not increase with salt intake. On the other hand some people suffer from food allergies, some people slide into diabetes easily, some people cannot digest milk, and some people are anorexic.

    Yet a government chooses to dispense general advice about diet and lifestyle then draws moral or taxation conclusions about people who will not or cannot benefit from that advice. This is poor government.

  35. Acorn
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    “How far should the state go in telling us what to eat and regulating what we eat?”

    I wasn’t aware that we had a choice. Please advise how I can affect any action of our most recent totalitarian elected dictatorship. The chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has said the House of Commons remains “acquiescent in its subordination to government”, despite recent reforms. Redwoodians really should stop and think. Try and understand the real meaning of words like “gullible; credulous; naive; trustful” when you are reading the Daily Mail. http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/house-of-commons-23355890 .

    It is interesting to compare the difference between the US and the UK, the two old Anglo-Saxon nations, that together, were the sole creators of the 2007 financial crisis that rocked the planet. (The evidence is now beyond doubt.) US voters are mentally conditioned by broadcast television. In the UK, voters are mentally conditioned by national newspapers. Hence, the Leveson inquiry is on the back burner for now.

    Do the nation a favour, stop reading national newspapers and listening to 24/7 television and radio. The insignificant and the irrelevant they vomit, will not answer the questions you should be asking.

  36. Max Dunbar
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    Fat MPs, (some ed)fat and obese NHS staff and (some ed)fat policemen. No, the government is not in a position to lecture us on healthy eating. Also, the acceptance of obese people as a representative group in advertising does not help – the Fat Community one presumes.

    (Personal remarks re a famous non Tory political removed ed)

  37. Martin
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    If we are to have a free NHS then we need educating about what to eat & drink.

    I was going to suggest taxing bad things until I spotted a a family buying expensive cola in the supermarket that costs more per litre than unleaded petrol!

    Some of the population need a lesson in basic arithmetic/thrift.

  38. uanime5
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    The state will always end up picking up the costs if someone is unable to work because of their bad diet (cost of unemployment and medical costs). So the Government should be lecturing and advising, people and companies regarding what is a healthy diet. It’s no use telling people to eat healthily when much of the food available is either 40% or 50% sugar.

    Free school dinners are only viable if the food is decent quality. Given the low amount spent per meal I have to question how nutritionally beneficial these meals are. There’s also nothing wrong with packed lunches, provided the parents know what constitutes a healthy lunch.

    Regarding how far the state should go I say they should go much further regarding how much fat and sugar is in food. When I was young I learned that 95% fat free biscuits were a con because most biscuits were 98% fat free. Now these same biscuits are 35-40% fat. It’s no wonder there’s such high levels of obesity when companies have been bulking their foods and drinks with cheap fat and sugar for decades.

  39. Normandee
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Looking forward to your report on Hagues promotion of the EU, which confirms everything you have been told by me and others that you are not going to change the party from within. So once again the question, party or country ? Still think that Cameron and Hagues referendum, which is now looking less and less likely is going to be fair and impartial ?

  40. Paul
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    I have no problem with government giving advice, but like alcohol, I do have a problem when the government thinks the only way to deal with a problem is to tax. Tax on fizzy drinks was the latest one. I hope it is dropped. All it will do is hit the poor who have the occasional sweet treat without any problem. The government needs to wake up and govern for the majority not the foolish minority.

  41. Bazman
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    The idea that the government and the food industry has no responsibility or bearing on the health of the nation is for the birds and believed by right wing fantasists as all evince points to this. What next the government has no responsibility for taxation and infrastructure?
    Many seem to believe that the lifestyle of most of the population is some sort of ‘choice’. Should I be slim and fit or fat and lethargic? Burger or salad? Should I take to the stage or become a Surgeon? I’ll be a dosser as my father was and not get ideas above my station. Get real.

  42. matthu
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    How much of our food law should be laid down by the EU?

    If the EU decided we should eat more of certain foods and less of other foods, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

    There is no place for nanny statism and even less when we have such poor democracy. Concentrate on fixing what needs to be fixed and stick to what you are good at.

  43. matthu
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Imagine if the government started telling you that it was not only safe but mandatory for your children to eat
    a) only full fat milk or
    b) only skimmed milk or
    c) GM cereals
    d) British beef (during a CJD crisis)
    how would you feel?

    What if they told you that people on benefits also had to eat these foods?
    I cannot seriously believe that anybody supports this sort of thing.
    Oh, hang on … there are.

  44. Iain Gill
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    On the other hand:

    I like the “reduced salt” tinned soup in the shops. If the makers were forced to drop the salt in all their cans to similar levels it would drop the blood pressure of the country and save quite a number of heart attacks. I wouldnt have thought some simple stuff like this would be too bad.

  45. ROGER THE PILOT
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    The parents could get together and organise themselves in to a volunteering body which take over the school kitchens during holidays to provide the labour themselves with some minimal legal oversight and permission from the school governors and the teachers.

    What total and utter rot; typically written by (Magnolia) someone who hasn’t a clue of how a school kitchen operates!

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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