This post will involve an interesting segway.
First of all sugar is evil. It is fine in small amounts but the corporates have worked out that it helps sell their products. They have spent a few decades working out the optimal amount of sugar in what they make.
Dear reader the optimal amount is not the amount that is best for you, it is the amount that will make their product most attractive to you before it descends into too sweet territory. Sales not health are the goal.
And corporations are not interested in long term effects. They are only interested in the here and now, what will sell their product and improve their bottom line. The repercussions are for society to take care of.
Just check any label of any food that you buy. Gatorade, sauces, curries, drinks, cereals, so called health bars they are all jammed with as much sugar as they can realistically handle.
Can I recommend you watch That Sugar Film, where a healthy male maxes out the amount of sugar he consumes even though he is eating “healthy” food. The effect on his body during the test is incredible. Thanks to the miracle of Youtube the film can be seen here.
This segways into the Dirty Politics trial this week where Carrick Graham provided a grovelling apology to three medical researchers who had been warning us for some time about the evils of too much sugar, fast foods and alcohol. The consequences are clear, we have appalling rates of obesity and diabetes, and in particular there is clear evidence that too much sugar has adverse effects on behaviour and learning of young people and children.
Simon Wilson has this outstanding review of the Graham trial and asks some very pertinent questions:
Why hasn’t the Government banned sugary drinks in schools? And how come KFC is able to promote its chicken as the perfect food for every occasion you could possibly think of?
The evidence for the addictive qualities of soft drinks and fatty foods is now widely accepted, as is the evidence for the harm they do. Just one statistic: a thousand people a year in this country have a foot or leg amputated because of type 2 diabetes: a disease caused by an excess of sugary and fatty foods.
Isn’t this – a major public health issue, especially among poor and vulnerable communities – exactly the sort of cause that motivates centre-left MPs to seek power in the first place?
So why no action? The answer is a mystery. But food and public health occupy an extremely unsavoury place in the political world and just this week we were reminded about the how and why.
He then reviews the evidence that came out of the case and notes that the Court was advised that over a five year period Graham’s PR company paid Whale Oil $124,000 and the Food and Grocery Council, for its part, paid Graham’s company $365,619.
In the book Dirty Politics Nicky Hager provides a lot of background and provides details of the relationship between Graham, the FGC and some of its members. He also revealed the contents of emails from Graham to Slater in which he referred to “KR hits”. He said “KR” was former National MP Katherine Rich who for some time has been the head of the FGC. The FGC has denied any involvement.
Wilson’s conclusion is compelling:
This scandal has barely dented the FGC and, despite the opprobrium it generated, Rich has remained in her job.
There’s a reason for that: she’s very good at it. The FGC under Rich has managed to persuade successive governments, including the current one, to stay away from taxing or regulating harmful foods and beverages.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. We know that sugary and fatty foods are bad for us. We know we’re facing an obesity epidemic: worldwide, obesity has tripled since 1975, and New Zealand is as caught up in it as any country.
Sooner or later, it is surely obvious, we will decide to treat addictive junk foods the way we now treat tobacco.
Banning sugary drinks from School should be an easy and a quick start. But this will take some political will. The companies involved will not take this lying down. They will throw all sorts of PR forces against it, and talk about “Cancel Culture” and “Nanny State”. Judging by what appears to have happened here social media and blogs will also be used. But there is no better time than the present to address this.
The policy will be very popular with Labour members and has been the subject of numerous policy remits in the past.
The Party’s 2019 policy platform said this:
We will act on major causes of poor health such as child poverty, poor housing, and economic inequality through bold policy initiatives across economic and social policy areas. People living in warm and dry housing, with enough income to afford a healthy diet, and access to good public services will have fewer health issues. We will focus on the health and well-being of children and young people, putting them at the centre of our efforts across the whole spectrum of policy.
Labour will encourage and assist every New Zealander to take responsibility, in partnership with health providers, for healthy living, including healthy accommodation and good nutrition. Through a holistic approach to public health, we can address chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The 2020 manifesto was not so directed with the only reference to diet being a policy to expand the Free and Healthy School Lunch programme to cover 200,000 students in 2021.
The policy ought to be easy to implement. Direct school boards of trustees to stop the sale of sugary drinks in schools. They should then work on a sugar tax.
The basic problem is the total commercialisation of our food supply. The demand for profit has perfected the creation of food that is frankly too often not fit for consumption. We can and must do better.