Thursday, 13 October 2011

The National Diet: Fat Wallets and Fat People

Along with a whole host of other disturbing announcements that have been coming from the Coalition government recently, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has put Britain on a diet. A 5 billion calorie a day diet. This announcement follows Denmark introducing the world's first-ever fat tax. However, unlike the fat tax, which is a clear policy that uses basic economic assumptions to disincentivise the purchase of foods high in saturated fat, Britain's diet (like so many individual diets) is a "ambition". Better still, it is an ambition that will be fulfilled with the help of food and drink companies in a "responsibility deal". That is, a voluntary deal.

Why is it these companies are viewed as benign partners in the war on obesity by ideologues whose entire philosophy is based on self-interest? It is fundamentally contradictory - these companies spend countless billions of pounds promoting their unhealthy foods and their entire business model is premised upon making people fat. They have no incentive to change the current system where both their wallets, and the British people, get fat. They have no incentive to provide and promote food that actually matches the needs of our increasingly sedentary lives. They have the exact opposite incentives, which gives us two choices: either change the incentive structures through taxation, or change the structure of the organisations through strict regulation - the time for gentlemanly agreements with the promoters of crap food is over.

Once again we see craven, gutless politicians unable and unwilling to hurt the corporate bottom line; even when the corporate bottom line is hurting us.

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