Vogue View: Should Chocolate Shrink?
Forget the melting polar ice caps, the conflict in Syria, and Brexit, critics have something truly important to mobilise against. Reports suggest there is a threat to the size of our chocolate bars.
That’s right, Public Health England (an agency of the Department of Health) has asked food businesses to voluntarily cut the amount of sugar they use in their products by five per cent this year and 20 per cent over the next three years. As a result, chocolate manufacturers have mooted either reformulating their products (Kit Kat, Yorkie and Aero will contain 10 per cent less sugar by next year) or cutting their size.
“Cutting their size?” shout the contrarians! “Pass the king size Dairy Milk! It’s yet another example of nanny state interference in our everyday lives.” But nanny-state interference is often for the public good: take speed limits, or seat belts or measures of alcohol. And when the NHS is groaning under the strain of our nation’s increasing waistlines – one in five children are overweight or obese by the time they start primary school and one in three by secondary school age – “meddlesome” regulations like these are plainly needed because education isn’t working.
Salt Solution: Are You Having Too Much Salt?
Despite public health drives and traffic light systems on food and education problems, too many of us are still eating a diet too high in sugar. The end result is, for many Britons, obesity – it’s a problem that will sink the NHS. Diets high in sugar contribute to everything from dental caries and tooth extractions to type 2 diabetes, heart and blood pressure problems and some cancers.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England (PHE), said that children from deprived backgrounds were more likely to be affected by obesity. “Tackling the amount of sugar we eat is not just a healthy thing to do, but an issue of inequality for many families,” she told the BBC. “If businesses achieve these guidelines, 200,000 tonnes of sugar could be removed from the UK market per year by 2020.” Which has to be a good thing, right?
This health by stealth method of simply removing bad stuff from processed food has worked before. The pressure group Consensus for Action on Salt has been instrumental at getting many supermarkets and food manufacturers to quietly adopt a policy of reducing the salt content of their processed food products. Because the salt was removed gradually over a period of years, consumers didn’t notice a taste difference and didn’t add extra. The UK now has the lowest salt intake of any developed country in the world, which will prevent approximately 20,000 cases of strokes, heart attacks and heart failure – and 8,500 deaths – every year.
Indeed, these new regulations could see a 20 per cent reduction in the number of obese children over the next decade. Surely that’s the sweetest treat of all?