Posts Tagged ‘Obesity Epidemic’

The Obesity Epidemic, Starvation and Osborne’s Sugar Tax

March 16, 2016

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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Vox Political on the Return of Victorian Diseases in 21st Century Britain

November 1, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has an article on the return of diseases, such as rickets, which were rife in 19th century Britain due to malnutrition, bad sanitation, overcrowding and generally poor conditions. He reports that Samuel Miller, a researcher into social security and one of his commenters, would like this investigated. His article begins with the answer to the question posed by its title, Will the Tories ever admit their ‘welfare reforms’ are reviving Victorian diseases?

Social security researcher and commenter Samuel Miller thinks they are.

He wants health authorities in the UK to investigate whether the return of diseases linked to poverty – and to the Victorian era – such as gout, TB, measles, scurvy, rickets and whooping cough.

This Writer flagged up the possibility as long ago as October 2013, after the UK’s chief medical officer formally announced the return of rickets.

I wrote: “Can there be any doubt that this rise in cases has been brought about, not just by children sitting at home playing video games rather than going out in the sunlight, as some would have us believe, but because increasing numbers of children are having to make do with increasingly poor food, as Cameron’s policies hammer down on wages and benefits and force working class people and the unemployed to buy cheaper groceries with lower nutritinal value?”

Despite Tory claims that the UK is in better shape than it has been in years, it seems clear that these health issues are getting worse.

His comments about people in the low income groups having to feed their families on foods with poor nutritional value, simply because they can’t afford anything, is entirely correct. Remember when Jamie Oliver did a series on Channel 4 attempting to teach a town oop north to cook properly, because some survey or other had shown it was the place where the most people stuffed themselves and their children with chips and burgers? One of the most revealing pieces of that programme was when one woman burst into tears, explaining that the reason she fed her children such low-grade comfort food was simply because there weren’t any shops near her, which sold the green veg and wholesome meat cuts he was demanding.

You think of the way traditional greengrocers and butchers, like Jones’ is the favourite TV show, Dad’s Army, have disappeared from our high streets, driven out by vast supermarkets like ASDA or Sainsbury’s. These have their advantages in terms of choice and so on, but for many people they can only be reached by car, rather than a simple walk down the road like the traditional shops. In many instances, all that remembers of local food shops is the fish and chip or Chinese or Indian take away.

Not that you can expect the Tories, or probably anyone else to do anything about it, as they’re too busy receiving donations from the supermarkets to ever want to change their policies. I’ve no doubt that there may be other solutions, such as making sure there’s proper access to supermarkets by bus, but that also means interfering in another local service, which the Tories and the rest of them have told us would be improved by its deregulation by Maggie back in the 1980s.

And so it’s far easier for the government to put an extra tax on sugar, and claim they’re doing something about the ‘obesity epidemic’, than to tackle the problem of malnutrition and even starvation in its entirety.

And no, I don’t think you’ll ever hear any of the Tories confess to a link between their social security policies and the return of Victorian diseases like rickets. That would contradict all the lies Ian Duncan Smith has been telling us about how no-one’s really poor in Britain, and the only people using food banks are scroungers and malingerers, who are doing so out of choice.