Sunday, November 16, 2008

Better food standards needed now to avoid the obesity horror show

OK, if we could just move away from the subject of the Obama-nation that has occurred just for a bit, because there is, believe it or not, other news out there besides our rock-star of a messiah of a President-elect ...
I have never really liked Britain's celebrity chef Jamie Oliver—second only to Gordon Ramsay in terms of fame and notoriety—as this piece that I wrote many moons ago testifies. Mssr. Oliver really hit a low point when he slaughtered a live lamb on TV in 2005.
However, since that despicable incident I have slowly started liking Oliver a bit more and more. Earlier this year, Oliver highlighted just how terrible living conditions are for battery-reared poultry birds, and persuaded the supermarket chain Sainsbury's—for whom he's been doing television commercials for the past ten years—to stop selling poultry from battery farms and sell only free-range bird meat instead.
I also appreciate Oliver's ceaseless attempts to highlight the obesity crisis and how it's down to a real lack of education about food, and his demands for better food standards constitutes a noble cause. Mr. Oliver recently told a parliamentary inquiry that poor food standards are contributing to a real breakdown of family life and that the U.K. is heading for an obesity horror show. Mr. Oliver even linked the problem to working mothers who are too busy to feed their families and themselves properly. That took some guts in this politically correct, how-dare-you-say-that culture of ours, which, on that basis alone, wins him my admiration and respect.
"Health, obesity and education has struggled to be taken seriously for ten years, but I think it's a bloody emergency," Oliver told politicians at the inquiry. Oliver also asked of the government to consider putting a cap on the number of fast-food outlets in town centers. He's right. Take a walk down any main street in Britain, and you will be amazed at how many burger, kebab and fried chicken shops you'll encounter. There should be a limit on just how many of these joints are allowed to exist, and they should not be allowed to proliferate to the extent that they have.
I was thinking about all this the other day while waiting for my bus into work. A chubby man was there, sipping a regular, full-sugar Coke and smoking a cigarette. He then chucked the can over the wall—proving that those who don't care about themselves certainly do not care about the environment—and walked straight into the Morley's fried chicken establishment. This man represented everything that is wrong with contemporary lifestyles, especially in urban areas.
I am not an advocate for big government or the nanny state. Honestly, I'm not. However, I do think some sort of government intervention is necessary when the ignorance of people who just don't know any better is contributing to a public services emergency. I don't relish paying higher taxes to keep the NHS alive because the health service is being burdened by people who are ill simply from smoking too much, drinking too much, not getting enough (or any) exercise, and eating way too much fatty, nutrient-poor garbage.
Personally, I'd just exterminate people like this and be done with it. (Joke!) But seriously, unless we want to be regarded as no better than the Ba'athist regime we overthrew in Iraq, then we need to try other, far more milder tactics: Even higher taxes on tobacco products and strong booze; alcoholic drinks stronger than 3.5% by volume to be sold only in state-run shops as they do in Sweden; ban trans-fats; institute a cap on the number of fast-food joints for every square mile of urban area; and at least consider delivering a healthy eating pamphlet to every household, similar to the Home Information Packs that the government came out with last year.
If this seems too radical, then please tell me where it's written—anywhere—that liberty and democracy means being as corpulent and unhealthy as you please, placing a strain on public/social services and driving up health care premiums for people who actually deign to look after themselves.
Jamie Oliver warns of a "profound" health crisis if this issue of good food and health is not taken seriously.
"This isn't about fresh trainers (sneakers) or mobile phones or Sky (satellite) dishes or plasma TV screens—they've got all that. It is a poverty of being able to nourish their family, in any class," Oliver told politicians at the inquiry.
Godspeed, Jamie Oliver. The sooner you win your battle for nationwide healthy food standards, the better off we'll be.

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