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Chattering classes call for food regulation

By Rick Pendrous , 04-Feb-2013

Since December the increasing clamour among the chattering classes for greater regulation of the food industry to curb the obesity epidemic has become more shrill.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has also jumped on the bandwagon by calling for a ban of high-sugar cereals and regulations limiting the amount of sugar, salt and fat in processed foods.

Even the government, which gave us the Public Health Responsibility Deal (PHRD) a set of voluntary agreements designed to get the food industry to reformulate products to reduce the amount of high saturated, sugars and salt is threatening legislation if more companies particularly caterers and smaller food and drink firms don't sign up to the PHRD.

Health minister Anna Soubry, at a meeting last month organised by the Food and Drink Federation to celebrate what the industry had achieved, waved the threat of a legislatory stick if companies didn't go much further and faster.

Soubry also came under flak for observing that obesity these days is an affliction of the poor. Her biggest mistake was to imply that you can spot a working class chav by his expanding waistline.

Denmark recently abandoned its 'fat tax' because it wasn't working. It also ditched its plans for a tax on sugary foods. Despite the efforts of some to argue otherwise, food isn't the same as cigarettes.

However, mounting calls for legislation cannot be ignored, as Soubry recognised even if she, and others in government, are ideologically against regulation. While they recognise the State and industry have big responsibilities, they stress that individuals are also responsible for adopting healthier lifestyles. But politics isn't always about doing the right thing, is it?

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