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From Digging to Taxing (With a Junk Food Shovel)

Comparing the war era, with the times we live in today is certainly a chalk and cheese exercise!

But the comparisons are startling.  In the 40s, the Government focused on education, inspiration and empowerment of the individual and family.  Hard times led to a nation united, everyone pulled together.

The "Dig for Victory" campaign promoted growing one's own food. The images of abundant, healthy fruit and vegetables made for compelling viewing in the dark times of the War. 

The ‘Lend a Hand on the Land' campaign attracted urbanites to use their holidays to work in rural areas.   Village Produce Associations started all over the country. Community groups set up cooperatives that promoted gardening and livestock keeping.  There were 1600 VPA's by 1948.   You can watch a Government archive video showing families how to manage their own garden plots Here.

Such campaigns made the vision of a healthier future possible.  The contrast with food policy then and now is stark.

We may not be at war, but obesity has trebled in 20 years, 1 in 20 people are being treated for diabetes, and auto-immune conditions are out of control.  The issues of public health are serious.

Andrew Lansley, the "Health" secretary, has brought big business on board to help the Government determine food policy.  And not just any big business, but Mcdonalds, Pepsi, Mars and KFC amongst others!  You can read a piece on this at The Guardian.   Asking junk food companies how to proceed on health and nutrition policy is nothing short of ludicrous.

A senior corporate source stated it was a "recognition by the new government that a lot of the best expertise lies with industry".  In our view, nutritional expertise, cannot, and will not be found in these new working groups of processed food companies. But the PR departments will certainly welcome the opportunity to actually write UK food policy themselves!

It's a mystery why they are not turning to (for example), food pioneers such as Jamie Oliver who has shown the power and benefits of good nutrition in schools. Perhaps the focus is more on a revenue model than one of really improving the health of the nation?  Or perhaps the times we live in mean that the processed food industry has to "have it's say"?

Panorama looked at the idea of a "Fat Tax" in 2010 and the idea was often bandied about in 2011.  Obesity rates are higher amongst those on a low income. Taxation then makes no sense. And it doesn't deal with the real issues. The focus surely has to be on education? 

Let's get nutrition and cookery classes back in schools. Get people to reconnect with a love of good food, to understand the benefits of good nutrition. Motivate, inform and inspire, not generate more apathy and frustration.

Grass roots community projects can make a real difference. Events such as The Big Lunch and Community and City Gardens are excellent examples of how to tackle the issues in a fun, meaningful way.

The term "Fat Tax" is in itself damaging. For individuals struggling with weight issues, the language and psychology of this is de-motivating at best. 

And this phrase also serves to (as ever) simplify the nutritional issues, and put the focus in the wrong place.

If sugar is taxed for example, will food companies turn to the cheaper aspartame?  There are more adverse reactions reported regarding aspartame in America than any other food.  Will there be an even bigger shift to "diet" drinks that are packed with aspartame, some small studies have even shown they make people hungrier!

And not all fats are created equal.  It is poor, lazy science that has led to saturated fats being demonized.  There is no evidence that saturated fats increase morbidity.  In fact, quite the opposite, some of the healthiest people in the World eat a diet packed with saturated fats! 

And lets not forget that here in the UK, we once ate far more butter and lard for example, yet had far lower rates of heart disease.   You might like to take a look at our Butter or Margarine? article looking at this issue in more depth.

What we actually need to be concerned about is reliance on processed foods and vegetable oils, the overuse of unhealthy additives, refined sugars, excess carbohydrates, Westernised soya and over eating!

Sustainable Food Bill - The Weston A Price Foundation Takes a Look examines current Government nutritional policy from a scientific standpoint. 

So Government has already got it wrong, and they are turning to junk food companies for solutions! Difficult times lie ahead for the health of the nation.

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