Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fat Is A Political Issue

Politicians like to seize on obesity every now and then to make political capital out of it. Ministers tried it on recently with a ridiculous idea to give kids a fat report letter to be sent home to parents. Now it's the turn of the Tories who are getting some flack by putting the boss of processed food giant, Unilever, as chair of its new fat working group. 

Launching plans for a 'Responsibility Deal', shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said it was time to "take away the excuses so that overweight people started exercising and eating more fruit and vegetables." 

That's all well and good but he shot himself in the foot by defending his choice of Unilever chairman, Dave Lewis, to head up the group.

“Who better to work with than one of Britain’s leading food manufacturers?” he said. “Business is not trying to make people fat - business is trying sell good food products.”

Now that is really talking food crap. Business is about making profits.

Get to the heart of the matter - it's processed food that makes us fat - and, as reported by the Orange Party here, in particular a nasty little fat called trans-fat. That's why the nation's getting fat. That's why heart disease and diabetes are so high.

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.

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

Over here Denmark and Switzerland have banned them. In the UK, some supermarkets have banned them from own label foods.

But the government and opposition's main response to processed foods and trans-fats is to do nothing much. 

At the end of the day it's still left to people to turn into the food police. To hunt down the ingredients in tiny print on the packaging and take pot-luck with our pot noodles. 

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