In the U.K., Pro- and Anti-Sugar Forces Contend

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As we left off in following the progress of the sugar tax in the United Kingdom, a forum on sugar reduction policy was attended by Food and Drink Federation lobbyists and by public interest groups supporting the 20% by 2020 plan, and it seemed as if things might go smoothly for a while.

Then, in May, there were rumblings of discontent. Denis Campbell reported:

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, recently warned that the 20% cut in sugar content of most types of foodstuffs being sought by Public Health England by 2020 was highly unlikely to happen because it would not be “technically possible, or acceptable to UK consumers”.

In what universe would it be technically impossible for food manufacturers to cut down the amount of sugar in their recipes? That just seems silly on its face. As for being acceptable to consumers, that is why rules and limits are given the force of law, because people are unlikely to act that way on their own. In other words, governmental business as usual.

In July, trouble broke out in another quarter, as the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood (APPG) came up with several dozen recommendations aimed at reducing the dangerous trend toward maternal obesity.

These include routine weighing of all pregnant women, not just those who appear obese, and some very aspirational suggestions, including:

More time to be allocated for healthcare professionals to have contact with prospective and new parents; discouragement of the “tick box” culture that impedes the establishment of personal relationships… Mandatory training of medical students and practising doctors in 7 evidence-based lifestyle interventions on the prevention and treatment of chronic disease…

There were also recommendations for other sectors of society, like:

Appropriate pictures and images of individuals affected by obesity should be used that do not contribute to the depersonalisation and stigmatisation of the individual with maternal obesity… Positive media portrayals of obese pregnant women need to be employed instead of using such images merely for the purpose of humour and ridicule…

The APPG report examined the roles of health visitors and midwives, both long-established roles in the National Health Service cast of public servants. It also asked for something very interesting (and contrary to commercial interests). The food and drink industries both strongly advocate personal responsibility, as we have seen. The party line in, if you’re overweight it’s on you, because you don’t exercise enough to burn the calories.

The APPG report suggests placing not so much focus on the concept of individual responsibility. More attention could and should be paid to the societal, biological and environmental factors that encourage maternal obesity, which is then passed along to succeeding generations.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Sugar tax must apply to sweets as well as drinks, say campaigners,” TheGuardian.com, 05/11/17
Source: “Maternal Obesity,” APPG via MailChimp.com, 2017
Photo credit: William Warby via Visualhunt/CC BY

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