The Obesity Epidemic, Starvation and Osborne’s Sugar Tax

I caught a piece of Osborne on the News today telling parliament and the British public that he was going to slap a tax on sugary foods and drinks. The BBC included with his comments some stats on the obesity epidemic, such as supposedly 25% of adults are now obese, and how much this was costing the Health Service. While I’m sure that there is an obesity epidemic, I doubt the statistics and have grave concerns about the effects of the tax. I can see it leading to further starvation, rather than healthier eating. I’ll explain why.

Firstly, there was an interesting little programme on BBC 2 a few years ago about the influence ad men and lobbyists had had on buying and general consumer culture. This included a piece on the way the official definition of obesity had been changed in America due to lobbying from one of the drug companies, keen to sell a fresh load of diet pills and supplements to a worried American public. Before this company and the like got involved, the line at which Americans were considered officially obese was higher, and so there were fewer technically obese people in the Land of the Free. Then the corporate lobbyists got to work, the definition was lowered, a whole new group of fatties was created that the corporation could sell their quack cures to. And I wonder whether the same process is at work over this side of the Pond. Given how much Dave C., Osbo and their fellows parliamentary whores just love lobbyists and corporate cash, my guess is that it is.

Then there’s the issue of starvation. It’s seeming contradictory and paradoxical to be discussing this in modern Britain, but it exists. 590 people have died in neglect, starvation and by their own hands since Dave C. and his chief thug in charge of the genocide of the disabled, Ian Duncan Smith, embarked on their sanctions regime. Stilloaks over on his blog has a list of them. An artist, whose work was covered by Tom Pride over at Pride’s Purge, turned their faces into a composite artwork as a protest against the Coalition’s policy of mass death. We were told by our parish priest last week that there are 4.7m people in ‘food poverty’ here in Britain. This is a disgusting number, given that the country is the 6th/7th wealthiest nation in the world.

One of the reasons why people eat unhealthy food – all the fatty, sugary stuff that’s bad for us – is because it’s cheap and easily available. Joe Queenan and his contributors, including a journo from the Torygraph, mentioned this when the issue of America’s obesity epidemic was aired on the Radio 4 show, Postcard from Gotham twenty years ago. They were agreed that people on low incomes, like the unemployed, bought it because it made you feel good. Going back to the 1930s, Orwell reckoned that one of the reasons there wasn’t a revolution was because, despite the Depression, cheap food was still available. He’s quote in Eric Hopkins’ History of the British Working Classes. And he wasn’t the only one. The 1990s also saw the public of a book on the Social History of the Potato. This discussed the way the humble spud had managed to combat some of the mass famines and starvation in Europe after its introduction from the New World. The book quoted the organisation representing fish and chip shops during the First World War as saying that it was only them that was keeping millions of Brits from starving.

My fear therefore is simple. If Osborne whacks a tax on all the cheap, sugary foods to make them too expensive to buy, or at least buy in the quantities people are currently doing, without raising incomes so that people can purchase the healthier but currently more expensive foods, the result won’t be a slimmer waistline, but the emaciation of the starving.

Mind you, Ian Duncan Smith had a jolly good laugh in parliament, when the story of how one woman suffered from starvation due to his wretched sanctions was told. Considering that vile incident, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s exactly what he and his vile crew wanted.

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