snacks aisle hfss health unhealthy

Tony Blair should retire gracefully, instead of trying to puppet-master the world from behind the scenes. Especially when it comes to food – a field where his credentials are elusive.

In his latest suggestion, Blair has urged ministers to tax ‘junk’ food, so the poor can’t afford it.

We should help impoverished families, he opines, by creating the circumstances in which they can choose healthier food. Using a tobacco analogy, he urges an expansion of the sugar tax, new levies on foods high in fat and salt, and advertising bans.

Blair’s paternalistic solution to Britain’s bulging waistband is typical of prosperous liberals who have never known what it is to run out of cash five days before you get paid. It makes sense to householders who don’t flinch at paying £100 for their weekly Ocado. It resonates with smug middle class types who watch bedraggled shoppers heaving their Farmfoods bags home on the bus, thinking “what a lot of rubbish those people eat”.

Apart from the Dickensian ‘them and us’ tone, what sticks in my throat is the outdated grasp of ingredients and nutrition among our food policy overlords, embodied in the crude HFSS doctrine. It manages to miss the mark of genuinely informing us about the properties, and likely effects on our health, of certain products every time.

This food illiteracy approaches idiocy in the case of Transport for London, which has banned adverts of HFSS food and drink on its network. That includes ads for cheese, an all-round healthy fermented food, soy sauce, an ancient condiment only ever used in insignificant quantities, and extra virgin olive oil, one of the few unrefined oils available.

Pesto is also verboten on TfL because of its oil (fat) element. But no one ever eats a jar of pesto straight. Surely the big plate of pasta it anoints is worse, because it rapidly spikes sugar in the bloodstream, promoting weight gain? Why did a capital C for high carbohydrate get missed off the food do-gooders’ list?

As for the sugar tax? All it can take credit for is increasing our consumption of artificial sweeteners, which are most probably worse for us than sucrose. But that won’t stop Blair and the HFSS crew notching it up as a major success.