Government Healthy Eating advice is useless and Tom Watson MP proves it!

There is a particularly trenchant article in the ‘Grocer’, no less, for this is the Bible of the food trade (and for once this is actually free to view) – on Government Healthy Eating advice, and Tom Watson’s role in showing them up for the sham they are.

We have to look after ourselves and not medicalise every problem. Yet this Governemnt Healthy Eating advice is once again, privatising the profits and socialising the costs.

From the same source is this crude but indicative chart of processed food availablity. The UK is almost off the scale!

But of course Marks and Sparks were the originators of the prepared meal and everyone has being playing catch up ever since. Catch up means using the cheapest possible ingredients massaged and encouraged to give the same flavour in order to give at least the same effect as – for example – butter without the expense (see the prevalence of palm oil in almost every prepared food that we buy and note the frequent use of celery based flavour enhancers to try to compensate for the lack of character).

If you doubt the lack of proper evidence based input just look at who contributes the evidence to the ‘Eatwell plate’. It is plain to see that the vested interests are in pretty much full control.

And, particularly now we know that England’s poorest households would need to spend 74% of their disposable income to meet ‘Eatwell’ guidelines, I think Tom Watson has found his purpose!



  1. Neil -

    That contributors list is more than a little reminiscent of the old sugar lobby that led to all the “low fat” (and high sugar) products that are available to this day. Do any of the manufacturers listed produce products that might be considered suitable for forming the bulk of a decent diet?

    The small government libertarians claim that we are all capable of making our own choices and regulation isn’t required. Indeed, we can all choose but it certainly helps when all the facts are presented without distortion by those who seek to drive sales of their own wares. This is aside from the limiting factors introduced by poverty where eating the best diet comes secondary to eating _something_.

  2. Peter May -

    Agreed. The manufacturers should as far as I can see, not be there at all and I think your’e right, none of the manufacturers are in the decent diet territory – mind you, we don’t really need manufacturers for that – they should concentrate on preserving – ie canning, jarring or freezing food rather than mucking it about!

  3. Graham -

    One problem with recommending diets, such as the Pioppi, is that it’s difficult to get first class evidence. The gold standard double blind isn’t possible, and any evidence that relies on self-reporting is extremely unreliable. How much do you drink? Only in moderation.

    A book I’ve been reading “Against the Grain” by James C Scott looks at how the earliest states came about. He says grains became a staple because they were easy to tax. He also discusses the diets of hunter-gatherers who, for much of our history, were much healthier and enjoyed a better diet than inhabitants of states, right up until recent times. Diseases of domestication and crowding were, and in some cases continue to be, lethal.

    Of course humans have adapted to changing diets, and he says one of the most important changes was the use of fire to cook food. This may have been responsible for our big brains. Unfortunately it didn’t give us big wisdom.

    On another note, I believe cookery as a subject (and art) has virtually disappeared from schools. And of course we all lead such busy lives….(he says reaching for his revolver)

  4. Peter May -

    As you say big brains don’t equal big wisdom!
    Agreed re evidence on diets although Aseem Malhotra, as a Cardiac Surgeon, has, I would imagine, more than sufficient evidence albeit only on a personally encountered basis.
    I’m not sure about the easy to tax bit for grain. As I understood it grain was often stored in temples as prevention of future lack. It may subsequently have been easily taxed, but I doubt that was the principle reason.
    Heat in order to cook food I thought was effectively to speed up th digestion process.
    Agree again it is crazy for cooking to disappear from schools – after all it is in fact, basic chemistry so could be educational on different levels..

  5. Donald Liverpool -

    The graph that attempts to correlate prevalence of ‘ultra-processed food’ whatever that means with obesity prevalence is not included in the link that Peter has given.
    Using anti-Brexit logic, if this was deliberate or left up following being reported, then it would make Peter a liar. Please fix this.

    1. Peter May -

      I don’t really understand what you’re getting at but the precise link for the graph is protected by a paywall as it is not from the same article. But it really doesn’t matter too much – the UK is a world leader in prepared meals. There is correlation with obesity, and the nation has never been so obese. The causation may not be the same, but evidence is mounting that suggests otherwise. Apart from anything else with prepared meals very few consumers know exactly what they’re eating and high availability is indicative of high consumption.

  6. Andrew -

    Congratulations to the author of that graph for trying to turn a scatter plot into a straight line. Here is a cautionary illustration of trying to fit lines to data like that:

    A more interesting question might be, why do countries such as Austria (or Italy) have much lower obesity than seemingly comparable countries such as Germany (or Portugal)?

    There is no magic bullet, beyond the linked factors of eating less (and better) and exercising more.

    1. Peter May -

      Agreed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the less obese countries’ equivalents of ‘Eatwell Plates’ were a bit more truthful!
      Or maybe people in those countries realise that not all calories are the same – celery famously needs one sixth of the energy it provides in order to digest it , whereas all refined foods – and above all soft drinks – need very little at all. And because they pass straight through, as it were, they don’t make you ‘feel full’ either…

  7. Andrew (Andy) Crow -

    All government advice on what is best or worst to eat, drink or smoke should be ignored, until such time as the opinion is reversed. It doesn’t usually take long. And saves changing one’s habits.

    I refuse to believe that most of these government announcements are unrelated to a financial vested interest and influenced by special interest lobbying.

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