Food and Behaviour Research

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13 Jan 2013 - The Telegraph - We're eating our way to disaster

donuts

As the Government threatens to cap sugar and fat levels in junk food, a warning is sounded from the US

It was one of those strange but illuminating coincidences: at the exact same time that my BlackBerry began to buzz with the news that Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, was threatening to put legal curbs on the amount of salt, fat and sugar in processed foods, I was staring in mute disbelief at a canteen vending machine at the children’s museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Healthy Snacks” screamed the machine’s jazzy logo, promising nuts, raisins and other nutritious goodies. But as I looked through the glass, there was neither a nut nor a raisin in sight. Instead, in its clutches lay cartons of chocolate milk, bottles of pink Snapple, packets of cheesy Ritz Bits, salt-encrusted pretzels and bags of Doritos. All of it junk.

Mr Hunt’s threat to legislate against the food industry, and a similar plan by his Labour counterpart Andy Burnham, spawned a predictable response. Even before I’d had time to tell my eight-year-old son that no, he wasn’t having a bag of Doritos to keep him going, the blog sites and Twittersphere were frothing with outrage at Mr Hunt, the “nanny state” and the even wilder suggestion from Westminster Council that fatties who don’t follow their doctors’ orders to exercise more should have their benefits cut.

If that last idea sounds extreme, it at least reflects the mortal seriousness of the fat crisis that now faces the Western world. Railing about “Frosties bans” is all good fun, as far as it goes, but before anyone throws out the fat baby with the bathwater, they might pause and consider the fate of fat America.