Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Action on Sugar's latest demands

Consensus Action on Salt, Sugar and Health - as Action on Sugar is now known - is a microscopic pressure group that basically consists of Graham 'Mad Dog' MacGregor and a couple of nutritionists. In 2016, they described the government's childhood obesity plan as 'pathetic' which was rather ungrateful given that the government had capitulated to many of their loony demands. Let's cast our minds back for a moment...

Action on Sugar's first manifesto, published in 2014, demanded a sugar reduction programme which is now underway, albeit with an unrealistic 20 per cent target rather than the totally insane target of 40 per cent suggested by MacGregor et al.

They also demanded a fat reduction target of 15 per cent (a strange request from an organisation that is concerned about sugar and salt, but never mind). Public Health England have confirmed that this will be going ahead, although no figure has been set yet. In addition, PHE have gone above and beyond Action on Sugar's demands by setting a 20 per cent target for calorie reduction, because the world's gone mad.

Their manifesto told the government to 'discourage drinking of soft drinks by planning to introduce a sugar tax'. They suggested a 20p per litre tax. The so-called Conservatives introduced a 24p per litre tax last month.

Oh, and they also called for portion size reduction which is also happening thanks to the sugar reduction programme.

Not a bad return on a few years of campaigning by a lobby group that could fit in a phone-box. But it was nowhere near enough for MacGregor, who responded in his usual batshit way:

Professor MacGregor, an expert in cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University, said: “The report is missing a key element of obesity: fat. This is meant to be a plan for reducing obesity and all it does is talk about sugar."

Yesterday, as if to prove that fanatics can never be appeased, Consensus Action on Salt, Sugar and Health returned with a new set of demands. The way things are going, the Tories will have adopted them all by the end of the year so pay attention. Their new policy proposals include...

1. A '50% reduction in sugar content across all products'!

2. 'Incremental reformulation' to bring per capita salt intake below six grams per day. (It is currently 8 grams a day so this is pie in the sky stuff).

3. Slowly reduce the sugar threshold at which soft drinks are taxed and 'slowly escalate' the size of the tax. (MacGregor makes no secret of his desire to make a can of Coke cost the same as a pack of cigarettes.)

4. A tax on confectionery.

5. A total ban on HFSS (high in fat, salt or sugar) food advertising and a total ban on HFSS price discounts.

They also say that reformulation must ensure that 'sugar, and sweetness, are reduced across the board'. It's not just about sugar (or fat, or salt) for these puritans. As I discovered when I attended the Sugar Summit, they want to rid humanity of its taste for sweetness. 'To encourage a gradual lower preference for sweetness across the population over time,' says the manifesto, 'the artificial sweeteners used to replace sugar in drinks should not match the same level of sweetness.'

These people are as mad as Nero and no less despotic. Some of the other gems from the manifesto include the following (these are direct quotes):

Where companies are replacing salt with sodium alternatives, the overall saltiness should still be reduced.

Sugar-free drinks (including use of sugar free syrups) should be the default option, in all settings including restaurants and cafes.

Chefs and caterers should receive additional training in nutrition and the harmful effects of food high in fat, salt and sugar, and the benefits of increasing consumption of vegetables .

Cigarette advertising has been banned in the UK for many years because it causes cancer and cardiovascular disease, yet HFSS foods and drinks, which are now a bigger cause of death and disability, can be advertised without strong restrictions to vulnerable children, who have no understanding of the consequences of consuming these products.

Free refills on drinks in out-of-home sector should only be available for water.

The out-of-home, catering and the public sector providing food must commit to supporting people to eat two portions of vegetables at lunchtime at no extra charge.

This is truly bonkers stuff. It shows no understanding of how food manufacturing and retailing works and has no consideration for the basic freedom of people to eat what they want to eat. This organisation should a national laughing stock and yet they can stake a claim to be the most effective pressure group in the country.

And yet, no matter how many times the government caves into them, they will shout and scream and hurl abuse. They cannot possibly be appeased so why does the government try?

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