Big Food has fueled a health crisis. It’s time to take action | Comment & Opinion

Last weekend, the BBC took the national pulse and responses in kind – in the shape of a spot-on feature about creating delicious, easy and healthy meals for under £1 a portion. I’ve tried my hand at two, and can confirm they’re precisely as described – a really inventive approach to the current crisis.

The enthusiastic uptake was hugely encouraging, especially given the UK media’s usual take on the concept of healthy food. While the BBC’s own much-loved comedy The Good Life made fun of replacing capitalist eating with healthy self-sufficiency, and The Young Ones turned poor Neil’s lentils into a running gag, the current antics of The Sun and its first make that seem like a golden age of enlightenment.

These days, the whole idea of ​​nudging people towards better food choices has become a byword for electoral suicide. Our own leaders may not yet be quite as populism-crazed as to serve McDonald’s at meetings and proudly shout about it – but the way things are going, we’d rule nothing out.

However, if people continue to welcome the inspirational Jack Monroe and the like as they did last weekend, even the ‘libertarian’ press may need to rethink their belligerently anti-health stance. Our latest existential crisis, the cost of living squeeze, has triggered the whole nation out of post-New Labor (post-Blatcher) prosperity and residual Brexit exhilaration, giving flashbacks to a more fragile world.

So that’s a start: a shared awareness that something is definitely up, with our precious food for once in the mix. Shortages and price rises join a gathering suspicion that there may be something in this ‘environmental impact’ business after all. This joins with a (slight, but perceptible) lowering of the usual hostility towards the suggestion that a less meat-and-UPF-heavy diet might just be worth considering, and even that simple scratch cooking with cheap, nutritional ingredients may after all be a viable, even appealing option.

The next step is to address the abysmal misinformation that chooses not to connect 10-hour ambulance waits outside A&E with the fact that one in six hospital beds are clogged up with people suffering from Type 2 diabetes. That crisis simply did not exist a few decades ago, and none of the efforts from the Food Standards Authority and its fundamentally flawed nutrition profiling model – with its so-called successes such as sugar tax and salt reduction – have made a dent.

In fact, because no one has had the inclination to take on Big Food any more than Big Energy, it’s all got a great deal worse.

But as with everything in life, there come moments when everything changes.

Our call is for the responsible media to start leading the charge by amending its narrative on who is at fault in the ‘dia-besity’ issue. It only needs to be a subtle shift, and the favorable winds are such that it may be enough to finally affect the narrative. All but one of the BBC’s 15 excellent £1-a-head recipes are super-healthy, in stark contrast to what fills the pages of food industry media year in, year out (jam-flavoured tea bags, anyone?).

Such fatuous ‘innovations’ and the people behind them continue to be glorified with recognition and awards, when the socio-economic cost of the food they produce is considerably greater than the profits of the industry [OECD].

And whilst we’re at it, let’s please stop lauding initiatives such as the tragic irony of Krispy Kreme and McVitie’s handing out metabolically disastrous free food to the NHS during the last crisis. Let’s recognize that their products are among the worst offenders when it comes to compromising human health and blighting people’s lives. Let’s debate the vested interests who simply have no interest in a healthy population, just a profitable one.

Let’s not forget why those beds are full and those ambulances are waiting, any more than why our covid death rates were so high. We are what we eat, and all the evidence shows we’re really not very well at all.