Monday, July 28, 2008

Fat Is Still A Political Issue

Some of our food is full of crap. That's why the nation's getting fat. That's why heart disease and diabetes are so high. Disgusting but telling us nothing we didn't know already.

Tonight's Channel 4 Dispatches 'Sandwiches Unwrapped' will show sandwiches are too high in salt, fat and unmentionables.

Obesity is one of those issues the government likes to make a fuss of every now and again. Health secretary, Alan Johnson, is making a big thing about it at the moment.

But if the government was really committed to improving our health and tackling obesity, it would take urgent action on the root cause - a disgusting stealth fat called trans-fat. Give food manufacturers an ultimatum to stop peddling it and ban it outright.

This artificially produced chemical, comes under a few disguises like hydrogenated vegetable oil and is hidden in a lot of our food.

Trans-fats are used because they're cheap. They bulk-up products and give processed foods a longer shelf-life. They are used for frying and baking and turn up in all sorts of processed foods and ready-made mixes.

For years they've been singled out as not just causing obesity but cancer, diabetes liver dysfunction, infertility - you name it, these nasties are responsible.

The Ban Trans Fat campaign is a model of US consumer-led politics. Not afraid to take on the big boys, it's leading the way in the States.

New York City recently banned trans-fats from foods. So has Philadelphia and Seattle. And now Arnie is set to terminate the trannies. California has become the first US state to ban restaurants and food retailers from using trans-fats.

Governor Schwarzenegger said the new laws, are a "strong step toward creating a healthier future".

Over here the picture's not so healthy. Denmark and Switzerland have banned them. Countries where people only eat a fresh, healthy Mediterranean diet don't need to bother so much. In the UK, some supermarkets have banned them from own label foods.

But the government's main response to trans-fats is to do nothing much. A review here, a voluntary code there.

So it's left to us to turn into the food police. To hunt down the ingredient in tiny print on the packaging and take pot-luck with the rest of our food.

A review by the New England Journal of Medicine reckons there's a strong link between trans-fats and coronary heart disease and getting rid could prevent one fifth of heart attacks each year.

The British Medical Association and new government-funded research are warning that a quarter of all children in the UK will be obese by 2020.

The government response? As well as spending millions of pounds on posters and pointless campaigns, from September, parents will be given an obesity report for all 4-11 year olds. That will make us all feel so much better - and as guilty as hell.

So why doesn't the government just cut the crap, ban these trans-fats and cut out the crap. If Arnie can do it, why can't we?


Unknown said...

The other major ingredient to watch out for is corn sugar -- in the States, called high-fructose corn syrup.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article.
Thx for posting.