Belfast Telegraph

In a future Fatworld, the only skinny people will be on telly

By Nuala McKeever

In my local supermarket the other day, they were doing a special offer on lentils — buy one bag, get two more free! And they had a stand set up with two lovely smiling ladies offering peckish shoppers free samples of raw beetroot!

The little portions were flying off the stand like hot cakes! And in the drinks aisle, young men were busy stacking large bottles of plain water onto the shelves, saying they couldn't keep up with demand for the stuff!

Then I woke up.

But why is this picture so bizarre? Why is it any more ludicrous than the scenes we usually find in our superstores? Crisps and sweets and cakes and biscuits and fizzy drinks all being promoted at ridiculously cheap prices.

We need to wake up. The post-war dream of affordable, good-quality food has turned into the nightmare of Fatworld!

How do the shops get away with it? How can junk food cost so much less than fresh fruit, say? It's processed and packaged, whereas the fruit's just grown and sold. Something's outta whack when supermarkets can afford to sell stuff so cheaply and still make a profit.

Profit. Ah ... there's the rub.

Can good public health and profit really co-exist?

I'm not so sure.

The minute a company's job is to make profit, its commitment to health is questionable. Oh, it will probably pay a lot of lip service, but its eyes will still be on the bottom line of the profit and loss account, rather than the bottom line of its customers, which is expanding quicker than you can say: “We only sell the stuff, it's up to individuals to exercise self-control.”

With current medical reports telling us that over 50% of men will be obese by 2030, with women waddling closely behind, I can't believe it when the Government says it won't go down the route of taxing junk food because that would smack of the nanny state.

Hold on a minute! We seem to have agreed in our society that we want the state (i.e. us, through taxes) to pay for the healthcare of all. So we accept, in principle, that public health is a matter for which all of us are responsible.

So how come successive governments stop short of their duty of care the minute it comes into conflict with the incredibly wealthy, powerful supermarkets?

A friend of mine years ago said the worst drug being peddled in our society today is on sale in every shop in the land — sugar. It does so much damage and causes so much ill-health when taken in the large doses we consume daily.

But the Government does nothing to limit its appeal.

Imagine for a moment if all the chocolate and fizzy drink shelves were filled with heroin. Would you still send your children into the shop with a pound to get what they wanted?

So what do we do? Obviously self-control isn't working for many of us. Over-indulging has become the entitlement of the stressed-out modern man and woman. A treat is no longer a treat, it's an everyday occurrence.

We're heading for this weird future world where there'll be a small group of thin people who live in magazines and reality TV shows and everyone else will be lardasses.

Enough carrot already — it's time we had the stick.

Belfast Telegraph

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