In the news this weekend, I have heard repeatedly that a number of UK companies have signed up to a “responsibility deal” with the government, and pledged to cut saturated fat in certain of their products. There is a brief piece on it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24682815 with a more in-depth link at the end.
Whilst I think that there could be a benefit in reducing saturated fat in products, I don’t think that this initiative is the best way to reduce obesity levels in the UK. Call me cynical but it seems to me that this deal is just an easy way for companies to get cheap publicity and be seen as socially responsible, when there are other things that they could be doing but don’t. For example, a few days ago I bought a Nestle product, which did not have nutritional information on it. I visited the website, and searched for it, which gave me a number of results about how keen they were to display it, but nowhere could I actually find the information I was looking for.
Instead of controlling the content of a small proportion of food, and in essence controlling the nation’s diet, in my opinion the focus should be on teaching adults and children about what constitutes a healthy and balanced diet, including how snacks and “junk food” can be incorporated, and how to make healthy alternatives. I know people who do not cook from scratch because they do not know how. The government should be addressing this. When I took cookery (or home economics as it was called then) I learnt to make sausage rolls, chocolate cake and Christmas pudding. The healthy meals I can cook I learnt from my parents or taught myself. If a child has parents who can’t cook healthy meals, they won’t learn this at home, so it should be taught in schools, along with nutrition.
As a country in the midst of a triple dip recession, many people are struggling to feed their families on a limited budget, so they are resorting to cheap processed food. Healthy meals can be made cheaply, if people know how. Healthy snacks, however can be much more difficult. Buying ready to eat fruit while you’re out and about will usually cost £1 or more, whereas you can buy chocolate or crisps for half that price. Making it a fair choice and educating people on making good choices could make a big difference.
My local health authority does cookery courses for people who are overweight, which is great if you can get there. As someone who works full time in an office job, which is hardly rare, I was not able to go to any of the courses. Perhaps making this type of thing more readily available could help to educate adults, whilst their children can be educated in school.
Yes, the research has shown that many people don’t know about saturated fat, and how much of it to have, but this is probably true of many aspects of a healthy diet. I have no idea how many grams of protein or carbohydrate I should be eating, but this does not mean I am not eating a healthy and balanced diet. Focusing on one single part of food, like saturated fat, is not the answer. Educating people about balance and helping them to create a nutritious diet is a much better route to a healthy Britain.
*Stepping down from my soapbox now*