The UK has a massive obesity problem – 67% of men and 57% of women are obese – second only behind Iceland in Western Europe. The cost to the country is estimated to be £47bn a year. There was a time when it was thought that this was due to consumption of fat. In fact it was known by some scientists that sugar was the real problem as long ago as 1972, but the main scientist behind the research, John Yudkin, was systematically destroyed thanks to lobbying by the food and drink industry who wanted to sell “low fat” food to a public eager for a quick fix.
Fast forward to today, and scientific evidence that too much sugar in our diets is overwhelming. The Department of Health commissioned a report to gather the evidence and decide what to do about it. Given the travesty that a Mars Bar costs less than an apple, one popular proposal has been to put a 20% tax on sugar to discourage consumption. Such a tax is much like the tax on tobacco – it nudges people towards behaviour that is better for them, and helps to pay for some of the costs to the country for looking after people. However, David Cameron – who has yet to even see the report – has already categorically refused to consider any tax on sugar.
Cameron claims that such a tax would hurt poor families. He hasn’t seen the report yet (it hasn’t been released outside the Department of Health), so hasn’t seen the evidence about what should be done, yet he can make categoric statements about what he won’t do. However, we know that he doesn’t care about poor families when he’s taking away £1300 in child tax credits, so why does he care about a few pounds extra tax at the till if they don’t change eating habits? It could be because of intense lobbying from the food and drinks industry again. Mars, Coca-Cola and Nestle have been to number 10 to talk to the PM late last year, as well as companies like McDonald’s, Nando’s, Pepsi Mars and Tesco having numerous meetings with ministers. Given the government history of a) doing whatever businesses want them to and b) screwing the poor, it seems more likely that David Cameron is putting the wealth of a few multi-national companies over the health of the general public. Mwhahaha.