Old-fashioned obesity prevention

Under new plans issued by the British government, restaurants, cafés and takeaway outlets will be forced to display calorie counts in a effort to halve childhood obesity levels within 12 years. Besides calorie labelling on menus, the government wants to ban the advertising of unhealthy foods on television before the 9pm watershed and to remove such goods from checkouts and two-for-one deals.

Even if we accept the government’s estimate that 1.4 million English children aged between two and 15 are obese, obesity among children and adults could be seen as the downside of living in a land of plenty. Most poor countries in the world do not have such a problem, and indeed it is one of the reasons that so many wish to come here.

Moreover, the ‘children’s calorie campaign’ could be seen as the perfect combined public-relations-and-distraction exercise for any government tired of the electorate’s demands for results. Its subtext is that ‘we have your children’s best interests at heart, but actually it’s your fault; you are the problem’.

And while governments virtue-signal about how much they care for children, as with so many campaigns espoused by cultural Marxists, anyone who ventures to disagree automatically positions themselves as a child-hater. As an added bonus, they can also show how much they mistrust capitalism, despite the fact that it generates the wealth that enables us to buy food, whether healthy or unhealthy.

Similarly, a fifth of meals are now eaten outside the home. Children today spend at least twice as much time eating out as children did in the 70s. Eating home-cooked food might be the solution, but peeling and cooking vegetables takes time, meaning that women would not be able to work quite so much outside the home; and since this is the sine qua non of official feminism and therefore has become the basis of all governments’ “family” policies, mentioning this problem would be shockingly unacceptable.

However, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says parents need help in keeping their children healthy, especially when supermarkets surround their checkouts with “offers for sugary sweets and snacks”.

He insists: “Parents want what is best for their children, but keeping them healthy and active can be difficult. It is near impossible to shield children from exposure to unhealthy foods”. Therefore, under the government’s plans, “supermarkets will be told to get rid of ‘guilt lanes’ that see parents pestered by children to buy chocolate and sweets while queuing for the checkout”.

Government officials maintain that removing unhealthy foods from buy-one-get-one-free deals was also an attempt to mitigate toddlers’ “pester power”.

It might be argued that parents should exercise more discipline on their children’s eating habits – that they must “just say no”.

But in addition to the fact that saying “yes” is much easier for harassed working mothers, for many years now parental discipline has been officially frowned upon as harmful to children’s mental health. In fact, one mother who did say no had her son taken into care by social services because she refused to buy him an ice cream and would not let him get his hair cut “in the way that he liked”’, thus she had failed to meet her son’s “emotional needs”.

That case is no doubt the tip of a very large iceberg which remains invisible because of draconian secrecy laws – all in the child’s “best interests”, of course, but a convenience denied to parents. And although the government might be hoping to signal that they care for children more than parents do, the manifest failings of our ever-burgeoning “care” system would suggest otherwise.

However, the proposal for more school exercise included in the Government’s plan is a positive one. The obsession with health and safety may have something to do with children's lack of exercise, when schools confiscate conkers in the autumn, and in summer weather insist on sun hats and sun protection, helmets, knee and elbow pads, and high-vis jackets. By the time they have ticked all the health and safety boxes there is little time left for actual exercise. 

Parents also have responsibility in this area although, once again, children using iPads and going to school by car are signs of greater prosperity. However, time-poor mothers having to drop children off at school on the way to work rather than going on foot threatens to disturb the peacefully ruminating sacred cows of left-wing feminism and seldom receives a mention. And thanks to the rising levels of crime under this government, it would be foolhardy to allow them to take themselves to school.

Obesity is a health problem, and it is even argued that it has become “the new smoking”, with nearly 10 percent of the health service budget devoted to treating diabetes, most of which is caused by excess weight.

No good parent would deny that they make mistakes in bringing up their children. But when governments make mistakes they tend to be on so immense a scale that they cannot afford to admit them. The amount of compensation that might be claimed by people who watched public information films in the 1950s telling them that sugar was a good cheap source of energy would be too much of a financial burden for even the most health-conscious government — although it would be borne by the same taxpayers damaged by excess sugar consumption. 

Most parents have good intentions and when they have erred they eat humble pie and say “sorry”. But the good intentions of governments are dangerous; in fact, they guarantee that when they have erred, they don’t ever have to say “sorry”.

Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St Pauls, 1995), and Prophets & Priests: the Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (St Austin Press, 2002).  

Avatar

Ann Farmer lives in the UK. She is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Campaign (CUAP, 2008); The Language of Life: Christians Facing the Abortion Challenge (St...

4 replies on “Childhood obesity: the Government takes care”

  1. For an equivalent in English, A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe fame) is pretty gruesome too. The word is that his research is pretty good. It seems to be considered a better account of the Plague than Samuel Pepys’s Diary which also covers it.

  2. Could COVID 19 be a blessing in disguise?

    COVID 19 is the third lethal coronavirus outbreak we have experienced so far this century. The first outbreak, back in 2002, was given the name SARS, an acronym for “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome”. It was five times as lethal as COVID 19.

    Hold that thought for a moment. 10% of those infected with SARS died versus about 2% for COVID 19. Imagine if COVID 19 was as lethal as SARS? The already high death toll would be five times greater.

    Fortunately, SARS was not as contagious as COVID 19. The disease was contained and eventually disappeared. The global death toll was 774.

    The next outbreak, starting in 2012, is called MERS, an acronym for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. It is again three times as lethal as SARS and 15 times as lethal as COVID 19. Approximately a third of people infected with MERS die.

    MERS is not very contagious. There appear to be almost no cases of human to human infection. The main path of infection is bats to camels to humans.

    And, now COVID 19 which is the most contagious but least lethal of the viral outbreaks.

    So we have been lucky. The really lethal ones have not been very contagious and the contagious one has been the least lethal. Imagine the catastrophe if SARS had been as contagious as COVID 19. If MERS mutates and becomes as contagious as COVID 19 we would be facing a catastrophe that could be compared to the plagues of what we hoped was a bygone era.

    This is not to minimise the tragedy of COVID 19. Because it is so contagious the death toll already far exceeds that from SARS and is likely to grow for many months. The best-case scenario is that we are able to contain the disease until a vaccine becomes available. However, I suspect even with such a relatively favourable scenario the death toll would be in the tens of thousands at least.

    Nor should we delude ourselves into thinking it is only coronaviruses that pose a threat. In 1994 a lethal virus was discovered in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra and given the name Hendra virus. Here the path of infection is bats to horses to humans. No known cases of human to human infections have been found. Mercifully, though there have been deaths, the number of human cases is so tiny that we have no idea what the death rate for a mass outbreak would be.

    So why could COVID 19 be a blessing?

    Because it can serve as a warning to the human race. There is no reason why the next outbreak of a viral disease, or the one after that, should not combine the lethality of SARS or MERS with the contagiousness of COVID 19.

    What we need is a rapid response capability that can detect the emergence of new viral diseases quickly and roll out drugs and vaccines in weeks rather than months. It would need to be a global effort. It is certainly not impossible. We already have much of the scientific knowledge and technology needed to develop such a capability. What is lacking is cash and, most importantly, political will.

    Will we do it? Will we learn the lesson of COVID 19 and its predecessors? Will the political will materialise?

    Which global leader possesses this kind of vision?

    Certainly not the current incumbent of the White House. This piece in Foreign Policy Magazine describes his thoughtless destruction of America’s ability to respond to pandemics.

    Trump Has Sabotaged America’s Coronavirus Response

    As it improvises its way through a public health crisis, the United States has never been less prepared for a pandemic.

    https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/31/coronavirus-china-trump-united-states-public-health-emergency-response/

    Quote:

    ….In 2018, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command, including the White House management infrastructure…

    Quote:

    Building on the Ebola experience, the Obama administration set up a permanent epidemic monitoring and command group inside the White House National Security Council (NSC) and another in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—both of which followed the scientific and public health leads of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the diplomatic advice of the State Department.

    Now that’s what I call vision!

    How about Xi Xinping, much praised by WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus? Does he have the vision?

    This is the Xi Xinping whose government tried to cover up the initial outbreak of the disease and then persecuted the early whistleblowers? Even Trump comes out looking good compared to that jerk.

    It is possible that even if the Chinese regime had acted with exemplary speed they would have failed to contain COVID 19. Given the ease with which the virus is transmitted from person to person and the long gestation period, the epidemic may already have been beyond control before the first cases had been identified. But whatever chance there may have been for containing the disease was lost thanks to the Chinese government cover-up.

    In Australia Paul Keating was the last prime minister of whom one could reasonably use the words “prime”, “minister” and “vision” in the same sentence. He lost office in 1996 and all his successors have been small-minded little apparatchiks. “Vision” is the last thing any of them have.

    But, you never know. Maybe we will learn the lesson of COVID 19 and its predecessors and get serious about detecting and tackling future viral outbreaks.

    In the meantime Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the entire board of the WHO should be fired for sycophancy to a ruthless dictator who, through sheer ineptitude, may have been responsible for unleashing a global epidemic that maybe, just maybe, could have been averted had his government acted responsibly.

    So it goes.

  3. I am obviously no epidemiologist or virologist, but this little creature seems no more virulent (and perhaps less so) than the flu. Yet the stock markets have damn near collapsed around the world. It makes me wonder what’s really gong on here. For example, if the papers printed the numbers of influenza cases happening across the world right now, there would of course, be millions, and there would be a number of older sufferers who succumb and die, together with some younger suffers who have a per-existing illness or weak-spot. Yet the number of coronas is minuscule by comparison.

    Call me a fool, a crazy skeptic, a conspiracy theorist, whatever, but to me it seems like a very efficient way to loosen people from their stocks, drive down the prices and clean up.

  4. The Plague required rats and fleas to spread. It had such impact because Europe was filthy. The fleas infected the rats and, as the rats died, the infected fleas would go looking for new hosts. Scotland was least affected because the frugality of the Scottish people meant that there was little left around to feed the rats. In the early sixties, in an excess of caution in the Cold War, the US military was inoculated against Bubonic Plague, even though it wasn’t really suited for military use. We feared the Russians might turn it into a weapon.

Comments are closed.