Supermarkets’ greed for cash – understandable for private firms that need to make a profit – and our greed for sugar and salt – evolved for good reasons over millennia – have combined to create an obesity crisis so bad that society itself threatens to come apart at the seams.
Nearly a third of the population are classed as obese and many more are over-weight, a problem exacerbated by our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Those who work at a computer can often spend virtually an entire day in the seated position.
Obesity is linked with a host of health problems such as cancer, diabetes and depression that must be treated by the health service, one of a number of reasons why it is currently facing a funding crisis.
One way or another we are paying for it, either financially, through the taxes that fund the NHS, or in health terms, as waiting lists rise.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that the Scottish Government has been moved to at least try to do something about it and their intentions are to be applauded. Somehow, we must find a way to wean ourselves off our apparent addiction to unhealthy food.
Once the focus was very much on fast or junk food. But increasingly high levels of salt and sugar are hidden in everyday products like bread. Shopping becomes something of a nightmare for the concerned consumer, who must read through the small print of ingredients and tables of statistics in an attempt to work out if something is “healthy” or “unhealthy”.
Holyrood’s plan to get health visitors to stage “weight interventions” has inevitably led to the usual tired cries of “nanny state!” But if any public employee has the skills to raise what can be a sensitive issue, it is our health visitors. No one is forced to follow their advice, but many would undoubtedly benefit from it. Attempts to tackle this problem must be made on a broad front. The Scottish Government has come up with a number of measures in areas that are under its control and also called for action by Westminster over junk food advertising. It would be disappointing if this was simply another attempt by the SNP to make the UK Government look bad. One can only hope they will lobby in a serious and constructive manner that could actually produce results. Supermarkets have taken some steps, but should do more. And we should not forget the considerable power wielded by us all as consumers and voters.