LibLink: Nick Clegg: My family are up in arms over ham but I’m raging over sugar

Nick Clegg’s been on a bit of a journey on his views about sugar consumption. In an article for the Evening Standard last week, he outlined the dangers of consuming too much hidden sugar and said that he now favoured strong action to reduce our sugar consumption:

Now, finally, we are beginning to have a proper debate about what we can and should do about it. A recent report by Public Health England proposed a number of measures, as has the ever- compelling Jamie Oliver.

Reducing two-for-one deals, clamping down on advertising targeted at children, reining in the marketing of high-sugar food and drinks, reducing sugar content and portion sizes, and introducing a tax on sugary drinks and food have all been called for.

I always used to take a classical liberal view of these things — if you want to mess up your own health you should be free to do so. It’s not for the state to tell you how to live. I was even ambivalent about the smoking ban when it was debated nearly a decade ago.

But I’ve become progressively more illiberal when it comes to sugar, precisely because so much of it is eaten involuntarily — or at least unknowingly. If you don’t know what you’re really eating — or you have to have a PhD to interpret the information on the packaging — it’s harder to exercise true freedom of choice.

So, much as Jamie Oliver’s campaigning zeal persuaded me some years ago of the need for healthy, universal free school meals for young children at school, I’m now convinced action is needed to help us kick our sugar habit. Stopping targeted advertising at children seems like a no-brainer. As do limits on heavy-handed marketing, reducing portion sizes and giving consumers simpler descriptions so that we can see how many teaspoons of sugar are contained in the cereals or soft drinks we buy for our children.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Peter Davies 14th Nov '15 - 10:58am

    The first thing we need to do is replace the traffic light system with something meaningful. How about a pie chart of the dry weight divided into food-groups.

  • ” But I’ve become progressively more illiberal when it comes to sugar, precisely because so much of it is eaten involuntarily — or at least unknowingly. ”

    What condescending tosh, it isn’t just illiberal, it is food fascism on the coat tails of the latest holier than thou TV chef Jamie Oliver as its self appointed leader. People are lardy bums or overweight because of the accessiblity of cheap food, and the bone idleness of refusing to even walk to the shops.

    This sort of do as I say, not as I do is particularly galling coming from fag ash Nick.

    I doubt there is any conclusive research evidence carried out over decades to support the argument that sugar alone is the problem. It is repeat of the simplisitc ‘fat’ political mass hysteria, or the climate change mass hysteria, the worst type of scientific research, Come up with a theory, and then try and make the facts fit it, for which the illiberal LibDem busybodies seem to fall for every time, There is no campaign to interfere in peoples lives that is too small for the LibDems not to want to stick their interfering noses in.

    On the advice of the health lobby, the same lobby that has campaigned for over 30 years trying to wean us of fat, only now to find that the naive and health obsessives who believed everything they were told by interfering politicians, and so called health professionals,, have actually been conned into possibly creating the circumstances for heart and circulatory problems in later life.

    Perhaps it is time politicians were made culpable under thecivil law for advice they give, instead of being able to walk away from the outcomes of their stupidity 20 years hence with some glib statement.

  • For once, it is a pleasure to say, “I agree with Nick”.

    @ Raddiyi : “What condescending tosh”. Well, you said it…….. Please explain why there has been a 60% rise in Type 2 Diabetes in the last ten years ? (BBC News, 17 August, 2015)…..and what the consequent cost is to the NHS, to public expenditure…. and in human pain and misery.

    The vested interest supermarkets and alcohol industry have massive lobbying power with government – including when Nick was in office. They specialise in mass producing instant foods with well documented damage to health…. and incidentally to farm producers. They specialise in all sorts of marketing chicanery and dodging responsibility as demonstrated in the latest Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall series.

    The alcohol industry is responsible for massive health and social problems………… and have blocked a very worthwhile initiative by the Scottish Government to introduce minimum pricing. Osborne reduced the whiskey duty escalator last year after lobbying by a now retired Lib Dem MP – not a thing to be proud of.

  • Very discouraged that Nick was “persuaded” by Jamie Oliver on the issue of the nutritional value of school meals.

    Some of us – as school governors – were campaigning on this 20+ years ago.

    But then, we’re not off the telly.

  • @ David Raw

    A classic example of putting 2 + 2 and making 5 because the BBC tells you.

    Please provide the evidence where it says that sugar is the principal cause of Type 2 diabetes?

    Type 2 diabetes is a obesity driven problem, principally caused by overconsumption of refined carbohydrates including white bread, white pasta, potatoes, and sugar including fruit drinks, coupled with lack of exercise. What you are saying in ‘I agree with Nick’ is that the LibDems have decided to start a crusade to address a problem by focusing in on one of the causes, and completely ignoring all the others.
    In your world Chubby Tommy and Fat Alice might be denied their sugary drinks, but will be able to continue to pig out on pizza, chips, and creamy pasta bakes, whilst playing football on their Playstation PS4, unless of course you intend banning these basic foods as well.

    ” The alcohol industry is responsible for massive health and social problems………… and have blocked a very worthwhile initiative by the Scottish Government to introduce minimum pricing. Osborne reduced the whiskey duty escalator last year after lobbying by a now retired Lib Dem MP – not a thing to be proud of.”

    Here you go again, interfering busybody in overdrive.
    In whose opinion is it considered a worthwhile initiative, yours perchance?
    It would appear that some have learnt nothing from the prohibition period in the USA, if people want alcohol how exactly will minimum pricing stop them getting it. . Of course it would make it harder for those on low pay to afford a drink, but it would have absolutely no impact on the Charles Kennedy’s of this world, do the LibDems only consider the peasant class need saving from themselves.
    I would have thought the first course of action before hammering the low paid with a minimum price, should be to close all bars in places like the Palace of Westminster, and make it conditional for any organisation that gets public funding to ban alcohol completely from all its activities if that had been done your party may never have lost one of its better leaders at such an early age.

  • @ Raddiy

    I’ve not seen you post on this site before. It would be wise to declare any lobby interest (or not as the case may be).

    I suspect I may have an advantage over you in that I had a liver transplant nearly five years ago for NAFLD (look it up)- I know what the Professor in charge of the transplant unit, (and the hospital nutritionists) advised me about sugars and fats. I suggest they may be somewhat better qualified than you. Incidentally, I was not obese or an alcoholic…… but the same advice applies to people who are. You might also look at the Diabetes UK website on the effects of sucrose.

    I am also familiar with the Sheffield University study prepared for the Scottish Government on minimum pricing of alcohol (not prohibition as you assert) ………. you should read it.

    Please don’t bother to respond. I don’t intend to answer any more of your postings. Your tone and some of your phrasing is not conducive to a serious discussion.

  • Simon Horner 14th Nov '15 - 9:04pm

    Nick is right on this. I have noticed a gradual change in the taste of a lot of products over the years as companies have added more and more sugar. I have just checked the sugar content of some items in my food cupboard. Brown sauce – 20%, mustard – 7%, baked beans – 5%. No doubt the manufacturers will say that it is market forces at work, and that their taste tests show that people actually want their savoury foodstuffs to be sweet. But I doubt if the people who do the tests are told about the health implications.
    The one that really annoys me is breakfast cereals. It is almost impossible to find a low-sugar variety nowadays so I have switched to porridge. The supposedly healthy breakfast cereal my son eats is almost one quarter sugar!
    Higher taxes are levied on products that are bad for health such as tobacco and alcohol (when taken in excess). Sugar should be treated in exactly the same way.

  • There is a problem with sugar and with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. So what did Nick do about it when he was in the Cabinet? As far as I can tell he went along with the Tories who are funded by the food lobby. Its a bit late to have a Damascene conversion now.

  • Jane Ann Liston 15th Nov '15 - 11:09am

    A tax on added sugar (and salt, for that matter) would be a good way to tackle the hidden consumption of sugar. One can make a conscious decision to not eat so many obviously sweet things (biscuits, sweets etc) but usually one would not think of soups (most home-made soups don’t contain added sugar, after all) or baked beans as containing sugar, which they do. It could mean manufacturers reducing the amount in processed foods which over time will reduce our addiction.

    I also favour forbidding school pupils from leaving the premises at break and lunch times, as far too many of them consume absolute rubbish for dinner on a daily basis, much of it sugar-laden, storing up trouble for later life. Combining that stick with the provision of free, properly balanced school meals for all, would be a valuable investment in the health of the next generation.

  • If we go down the line of differential taxing for those foods which are good/bad for you (and I have my doubts), is there any reason why the amount of tax on ‘healthy’ foods should not be reduced?

  • For goodness sake, people have to decide for themselves what they are going to eat.

  • Richard Underhill 16th Nov '15 - 4:48pm

    Raddiy 14th Nov ’15 – 11:35am Please do not overuse the word ‘fascism’. Please take Shirley Williams’ advice, and what would you say if a Mussolini made a comeback in Italy?

  • Even if it made political, psychological or philosophical sense, it wouldn’t work – all it would do is make the poor poorer.

  • peter tyzack 17th Nov '15 - 11:41am

    Raddiy, who rocked your cradle? The key to what Nick was saying was not ‘do as I say’ but ‘lets have better information on packaging’.. lets start by having the CONTENTS list in larger print, with understandable names for things instead of technobabble or spurious science.

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