MSPs have defended holding a Holyrood debate on Scotland’s relationship with junk food – on the same day as macaroni and cheese was served up in the Parliament canteen.
Nationalist Bruce Crawford told MSPs yesterday the “mac and cheese” promotion had been raised on social media as Parliament was debating flagship plans to address the nation’s junk food habit and tackle obesity.
The Stirling MSP hit back at claims that politicians were making speeches about “eating well” after many staff at Holyrood had been “gorging themselves on pasta, chips and garlic bread”.
He said the dish was “one of his favourites”, but he hadn’t spotted it yesterday in canteen.
“There’s a place for it – I don’t think we should decry that as a good food,” he said.
“The issue is how we go about finding a balance.”
Tory MSP Brian Whittle, a former Olympic athlete, said there was nothing wrong with the pasta favourite
“How we frame the debate is going to be hugely important,” he said.
“Bruce Crawford’s point for example around mac and cheese – there’s nothing wrong with having mac and cheese. I would suggest he should have broccoli with it.”
And the row even prompted the Holyrood canteen chef Liam MacDonough to defend his recipe.
“We use reduced fat cheddar and semi-skimmed milk to make the sauce, no fat used in the thickening agent,” he said on social media. “So it’s not really unhealthy at all.”
Ministers want to increase physical inactivity in adults and adolescents by 15 per cent by 2030 and to halve childhood obesity by 2030.
Mr Whittle had earlier said schools would be a “key battleground” in delivering a healthier environment.
He said: “Physical education is about how to be physically active and when we can be physically active.
“We then need to ensure that learning can be applied outside of the school.” Greens health spokeswoman Alison Johnstone said young people must be protected from the “very worst aspects” of the food industry.
“We have to restrict irresponsible promotions on very unhealthy food,” she said. “We really need to get to grips with that.”
Two thirds of adults in Scotland are overweight and 29 per cent are obese.
Ministers are to consult on detailed plans to restrict the promotion and marketing of foods high in salt, sugar and fat.
Health secretary Jeanne Freeman said the issues with obesity would not be solved over “one electoral cycle”.
Ms Freeman said it was important to look at “what drives the behaviour” of Scots eating too much junk food.
“How do we change the relationship that we collectively have in Scotland between food, physical activity, nutrition and drink and so on,” she said.
“That is the central point and it is the hardest one to crack.” The health secretary insisted sustaining the momentum over the long term would be “absolutely critical” to addressing the issue.
“The core point is about changing the mindset that we have individually and collectively in terms of how we want to live a healthier life,” she said.
“Living longer is good. Living longer and more healthily is even better.”