I am sufficiently ancient to wonder sometimes if modern political parties might have a collective memory problem. The last Tory government was bombarded by food crises for a decade – remember salmonella and BSE? It mismanaged these spectacularly at times.But the Labour government fixed it, right?
Labour's response was to set up the Food Standards Agency (FSA), designed to "create blue water between us and safety difficulties", as one minister told me in 1998.Ah, yes. The FSA. The department that brought us such ideas as the need for thicker chips, the need for portion control and the burning need for bigger menus. Well, I think we can safely lose them.
And so now, the ConDems have pulled the plug.
The new government has now decided to dismember the FSA. Its role as public health adviser on nutrition is to be absorbed into the department of health; its role as inspector of farms, food processing plants and so on will revert to Defra.Who could argue against that?
Well, Tim’s going to have a damn good try.
Even before this dismemberment, what the FSA could achieve was limited. In particular, it was not able to consider the impact on the broader environment – cultural or ecological – when making recommendations to the public about food. The FSA lacked capacity to deal with the environmental implications of defining a sustainable diet, for example.Oh, oh. I don’t like the sound of that…
Are we perhaps back in beetleburger territory?
Take the question, should I eat fish? Nutritionists say yes; fish stock analysts say no. To answer that question required the FSA to integrate ecological into nutritional advice. It fudged that one.It’s possible for both those answers to be correct, Tim, and for the public to make up their own mind…
This matters. Take meat and dairy. They account for a huge proportion of consumers' food footprint. So should the UK cut its meat and dairy consumption? Yes, say health experts and environmentalists; no, say industry interests.And what do the public say? Do they even figure in your thoughts?
Health secretary Andrew Lansley's recent speech to the Faculty of Public Health reiterated the mantra of pursuing "evidence-based policy". Quite right, but what if evidence competes? If the UK is to meet its legal obligations to meet climate change emission targets, this has to be addressed.Well, maybe that ‘legal obligation’ is based on nothing more than smoke and mirrors? Maybe the 'climate change' movement is a giant con?
Should we not check out the evidence for that? Since we’re in an evidence-gathering mood?
The pursuit of cheaper food underestimates real costs. Who pays for climate change? Is the real cost of the good water going into that Kenyan green bean included in your checkout bill? And why is it easier to quench your thirst with a sugary soft drink than in a public, free water fountain?It might be ‘easier’, but it’s actually more expensive. So if people are spending money on it, it must be because they want to. Maybe they prefer the taste?
Tackling obesity is like tackling climate change. It requires system change, and cannot be reduced to individual choice.If we have no individual choice, we have slavery. Is that what you wa…
Oh, I’m wasting my time. It probably is what you want.
We can't go on eating as we are – destructive choices (eating more food that has been flown thousands of miles, for example) need to be edited out, and only governments can set the framework.And the mask slips, to reveal the gibbering control-freak underneath. Welcome to the new world order according to Tim – you will eat what the government tells you, and like it…