Artillery Row

Food chains

Dimbleby seems to wants to make it harder for some to eat at all

Henry Dimbleby’s Leon chain was founded to “make it easier for everyone to eat well”. Now, with his National Food Strategy report, Dimbleby seems to want to make it harder for some to eat at all.

The National Food Strategy report, commissioned by this Government and carried out by Dimbleby in his role as “Food Tsar”, recommends measures to tackle obesity. The key suggestion is a £3 per kilogram tax on sugar and a £6 per kilogram tax on salt in processed foods from supermarkets and prepared restaurant meals.  He also wants fruit and veg on prescription for overweight patients.

This is just the latest in a long line of paternalistic, infantilising, and damaging policies coming from this government. From bans on advertising, minimum alcohol pricing, and wholesale smoking bans, the creeping hand of the Nanny State is seeking to control our every move. Even Action on Sugar’s Professor Graham Macgregor said “we are making the right choice for you”. How thoughtful.

It’s exactly this attitude that shows how measures like this one are imposed on the general public by the enlightened classes because the rest of us are apparently incapable of taking care of ourselves.  What these benevolent overlords don’t know is what it’s really like to live paycheck to paycheck or to feed a family of four on one salary. In short, they don’t acknowledge that their taxes, imposed for our greater good, will inflict harm on the most vulnerable.

With the soft drinks tax, the public ended up substituting or just paying more for less, just to get the original formula

By the Adam Smith Institute’s calculations, Dimbleby’s proposed tax on salt and sugar would raise the average household’s food spend by £172 per year. That means more penny-pinching at the tills and more stress at home. With the price of household essentials like jam, cereal, and crumpets all facing increases, some up to 46 per cent, these measures will put increased pressure on our already strained purses. In a time of great economic tension, this inane nannying will cost the public an extra £4.8 billion per year.

Proponents say that these policies, based on the Soft Drinks Industry Levy implemented under Theresa May, reduce sugar and salt consumption through reformulation of products. However, as was seen with the soft drinks tax, the public ended up substituting for other sugary products or just paid more for less, just to get the original formula. The reformulation of products, either through sugar substitutes or shrinkflation, just result in worse-quality food at higher prices.

And for what? The impact assessment on these policies show that if “fully implemented” they could save 38 calories per person per day, helping the average person lose 2kg in weight a year. For reference, 38 calories amounts to about half of a Digestive. Our Food Tsar wants us to put an increased strain on our budgets and restrict the free choice of millions of people around the UK for the sake of half a biscuit. He also wants us to shed weight in order to “protect the NHS”, as if we are designed to serve the institution instead of the other way around.

So while it would be very unlike this Government, one hopes that we can move away from punitive, unscientific, and illiberal policies and towards encouraging personal responsibility around food and lifestyle changes. Obesity is a problem, it’s something that should be addressed, but certainly not through wholesale attacks on our food supply.

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