17 October 2006

Food fascists on the march - again

Health scares about obesity are back in the news, as are demands to ban advertising of 'junk food'. No one ever seems to worry about the difficulties of defining good food versus bad food, or the possibility that current expert opinion might be mistaken. No, the elite assumes 'we' are all agreed about what is right and wrong, and the only problem is indoctrinating the hoi polloi with the correct values. It must be (the assumption goes) that they're stupid; it can't be that they simply value eating junk food, or smoking, above having more years of life in a mediocracy.

Our health minister Caroline Flint thinks too many people see fruit and vegetables as "scary food", and has called on supermarkets to mount displays to take the menace out of peeling an apple - or even a banana.

"Parents are not always embracing healthy eating and active lifestyles, as they are perceived to be too challenging. We want to support parents to make them feel more able to make the changes that are needed to make a big difference to their own and their children's lives." (Daily Telegraph)
How thoughtful. But a critic of the government thinks it's not enough. According to him, we need more serious intervention: "more school nurses, more health visitors who are routinely working with families at home, and a food labelling scheme consistently applied across all products." Who is this champion of nanny statism, perhaps a member of the medical guild, or a left wing sociologist? No, the Tory spokesman for health, Andrew Ransley.

There was a useful article by Claire Fox in Thursday's Times, pointing out that criticisms of 'product placement' on TV can just as well be applied to the government's strategy of 'policy placement' - using television programmes to convey the received wisdom on what you should eat.

The government’s (and medical establishment’s) fight against fat has nothing to do with caring about people's health, and everything to do with ideological warfare. Having already won the battle on smoking, it’s a further test case for how resistant to intervention we are. If they win this one, by getting us to accept we have no right to privacy in the food sphere, they’ll feel free to move on to more sensitive areas: childcare, domestic activities, exercise, reading, relationships, sex, driving, holidays, etc. A ruling elite’s appetite for power, once given free rein, and especially if ‘legitimised’ by a phoney for-your-own-good ethic, has no natural limits.

Unfortunately, there is little sign that at the next election we shall have the opportunity to vote for a less interventionist bunch.