Two stories broke cover this week that made me go, ‘Hmmm.’
The first shouldn’t really surprise anybody, because it features the UK government suppressing information, something they’re pretty adept at, since they’ve had a lot of practice.
Public Health England is a government funded quango, and commissioned a study into childhood obesity and links to consumption of sugary drinks and foodstuffs. Not surprisingly they found that children who were above average weight tended to be cola freaks (or big consumers of cereals such as Coco Pops.)
PHE then looked at the effect of a ‘sugar tax’ on consumption, and cited results from Mexico, among other places. In Mexico, levying a sugar tax on soft drinks reduced consumption by 6%.
Cravenly, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has been trying to bury these findings, since the idea of levying a tax on junk would bring the government into conflict with big business, and they’d be lobbied to hell and back. Tories don’t like to take on business even when the health of a whole generation of citizens is at risk.
However, a note of caution. In Mexico, consumption of sugary drinks is 6% down. Sounds like good news, I know. Unfortunately this is no indicator of whether it will reduce obesity levels. The tax hasn’t been in place for long enough for any epidemiological evidence to be gathered. It will take years to assess the impact in a meaningful way.
Now that PHE has blown the whistle and circumvented the cowardly lion that heads up the Department of Health, even the Tories can’t just ignore it. There’s also the tempting prospect of more money in the coffers, since it’s estimated a sugar tax could net about £1 billion a year. They could bribe some more Chinese businesses with that.
Stop Press. I was wrong about the toffs not being able to ignore the findings. As of Wednesday, that toff Cameron is flat out refusing to countenance a sugar tax, without even reading the report. I’m sure the Food and Drink Federation have not had any influence on him at all. This is from their website:
‘Food and Drink Federation (FDF) represents the interests of the UK’s food and non-alcoholic drinks manufacturing industry and specific food sectors.’
Nothing at all about representing the population. Need I say more?
Errm, yes I need.
The problem is, I agree with CallMeDave. A ban or tax is wrong, it’s nannying, and of no proven clinical worth (see Mexico above.) A lot of money with no proven endpoint. Bloody hell, me agreeing with Cameron. Make a note in your diaries.
Extra. Read all abahdit! In 1900 sugar consumption in this country was just over 41kg a year. Right now, it’s the lowest it has been since the 1960s at 33kg a year
The second story is a bit more mystifying. Apparently the healthy living brigade are eschewing soya milk in favour of almond milk. This strikes me as strange.The zealots will rail against ‘processed foods’, whinge over their organic muesli about the dreaded additives in non-organic foods, you know the score. But since you can’t milk an almond, there must be some processing going on, eh?
I did a bit of detective work in my local CoOp. A litre of the leading brand of almond milk costs roughly twice what real milk costs, so it looks to me as if Alpro are screwing gullible punters.
Then let’s look at the ingredients. Water; sugar (oops); almond (a princely 2%); tricalcium phosphate; sea salt (salt? oops); stabilisers (locust bean gum, gellan gum); emulsifier (sunflower lecithin); vitamins (riboflavin, B12, E, D2)
Quite an impressive list, isn’t it? As for the claim ‘no artificial additives,’ I might take issue there. Let’s not forget that the gums and lecithin have been processed from the source seeds and plants, and the vitamins will have been synthesised in a vat somewhere by a big corporation. It’s not quite as healthy as might be thought.
Then we have an unlikely but true statistic. Almond production in California, the source of 80% of the world’s almonds, uses as much water in a year as the city of Los Angeles uses in three years. Not quite as ecofriendly as my urban warrior collective would hope. California is in the grip of a 10 year drought, households are rationed as to water, but the almond growers have free rein.
Oh, anybody citing lactose intolerance or allergy to justify drinking almond milk should bear in mind that levels of true, life threatening allergy to almonds can be as high as 50%, but generally run at about 5 to10%. I bet the parents giving their offspring almond milk are paranoid about peanuts.