Sunday, 24 April 2016

Water, water everywhere

The fussbuckets are running out of things to complain about if this, from the Telegraph, is any indication...

Restaurants have been accused of fuelling the nation’s obesity crisis by failing to put tap water on tables.

Restaurant owners should “take responsibility” and give families tap water before they ask for it, instead of relying on them to choose it over soft drinks and alcohol, the Local Government Association has said.

Note who has to 'take responsibility' here. Not the individual. Never the individual.

Fizzy drinks are now the biggest source of dietary sugars for all age groups in the UK, and the National Hydration Council has found children only get a quarter of the daily water they need.

There is no such thing as the National Hydration Council. Presumably the Telegraph means the Natural Hydration Council which is a trade association for bottled water companies and perhaps not the most objective source of information. 

Obesity annually costs the NHS £47bn - half its total budget.

How can anyone be dumb enough to believe this factoid? The £47 billion estimate - bollocks though it may be - never claimed to be the cost to the NHS. The Telegraph keeps making this mistake. Its health reporting really is among the worst in the world.

Only a third of diners drink tap water when eating out, found a survey by the LGA, which represents all English and Welsh councils but four.

To be frank, a third is more than I would have expected. When you go out to eat you want to treat yourself, not drink tap water. The LGA seems to be suggesting that a third isn't enough. If so, what is the right proportion? A half? Three-quarters? Should everybody be compelled to drink tap water in restaurants? Alas, they do not say, but what they do say is absurd...

Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s community wellbeing spokeswoman, said: “While most restaurants will happily provide a glass of tap water on request, we’re saying it shouldn’t be something you have to ask for. Some people may be too embarrassed. Others may simply forget it’s an option."

Where to begin? People forget that they can drink water? Seriously?

In the unlikely even that someone is too 'embarrassed' to order tap water, they should buy bottled water. If you're in a restaurant, you're going to have to communicate your desires to the staff using a system known as 'ordering'. Here's my suggestion. Order your food and then say '...and a jug of tap water please.' If that sounds simple, it's because it really, really is. It's a system that's worked for years. It's a lot better than telepathy or compulsion or whatever the LGA has in mind.

What has any of this got to do with the Local Government Association anyway? Perhaps they have been awarded a particularly large grant for 2016/17 and want to start the financial year as they mean to go on (you may recall they were clutching their pearls over tooth decay earlier this month). Or perhaps they just wanted to give everybody a laugh over the weekend.    

Either way, they are not the only ones spouting drivel...

Russ Ladwa, chairman of the British Dental Association’s health and science committee, said: “Diners deserve a choice, but shouldn't feel they have to ask for the one option that doesn't come bundled with sugars, acids or calories."

They have to ask for every other option, Russ. That's how it works. Tap water is already free. If that isn't sufficient incentive for people to order it then we can probably assume they don't really want it. And if people don't want it, it's a waste of time and labour to give it to people as a matter of course.

Meanwhile, as Timmy points out, in the USA every diner is given a glass of water whether they want one or not (although it is not the law). Not only does America have one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, but there is a campaign to ban the practice on environmental grounds. In California, where nearly everything is illegal, there is already a ban in place.

Regular readers will know that I do not wish to emulate California, but there is a third way between compulsion and prohibition called the free market. Let's stick with that, shall we?

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