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Doing nothing is an option

Assuming all goes as promised I am to be on the Jeremy Vine radio show at about 12.30 pm today, i.e. in about an hour and a half from now as I write this, on the subject of the latest suggestions/proposals/outrages of the Food Standards Agency.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” said Sir John Krebs, the agency’s chairman, yesterday. Childhood obesity was “a health time bomb that could explode”.

By 2010 “it could cost £3.6 billion a year and be a significant factor in the ill health of thousands of people and their families”, he said.

Well, I suppose it you are Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, then “doing nothing” is indeed not an option. I mean, imagine it:

Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, today said that doing nothing was an option, and in his opinion the best one.

“Yes, it’s true” said Sir John, putting his feet up on his big new desk and drawing on his cigar, “that I’m paid a big fat salary, I have this handsome new architect designed award winning office and have more and more people reporting to me every day, but the conclusion we’ve all reached is that on the food front, things are, you know, really not too bad. There’s very little starvation. Some people are getting too fat, but we can rely on advertisers to tell them they’re ugly, and food faddists to write books to get them to go on diets. Plus, there’s a most welcome trend nowadays which should obviously be encouraged, of employers refusing to hire fat people because they frighten away the customers. So our recommendation is, relax everybody. There’s no need for any new laws or campaigns or anything, so far as we can see. The really fat people will die prematurely, and the rest won’t. It’s taking care of itself. Frankly, the only slimming down I’d really suggest would be of this organisation. Have a slice of cake.”

Doesn’t quite work does it?

13 comments to Doing nothing is an option

  • R C Dean

    Ironically, although if you are Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, then “doing nothing” is indeed not an option , accomplishing nothing seems to be practically a job requirement.

    Does anyone think the new program will make the slightest bit of difference on the ground?

    Motion should not be confused with progress.

  • mark holland

    Oh dear the MP is trotting out “it’s the government’s duty to protect THE CHILDREN” line.

  • We listened and you put the case well Brian. You certainly seemed to bring Jeremy Vine round to the sensible viewpoint. One wonders at the taste and discernment of the voters of Stourbridge, more salt perhaps!


    oh sorry, is that too simple. If people want to be 50% overweight then that is their business, not the State’s. Will we soon have Carol Caplin mandated BMI limits?
    The flip side of the coin is that if the fatness facists really want to control it, put a 500% on fish & chips/fast food……how many votes would that cost?

    In fact I am now so mad about this, I’m off to my blog to post away

  • Goodness gracious, she was an absolutely ghastly example of the kind of pig ignorant ban everything tendency that so fills the House of Commons, utterly unable to see beyond the babblings of some vested interest and consider deeper issues of law, liberty and legislation.

    Would not banning sports and pop personalities from telling us to eat crisps and burgers be an abridgement of their ‘freedom of speech’ I wonder. Given the extreme idiocy of this MP and others like her I wonder how far we are from one of them coming up with a ‘regulaion of role models for the young bill’ where any governement decreed ‘role model’ such as a sports personality must obtain permission to ensure that his hairstyle, tattoos, body peircings, sex life etc do not is some way influence the well being of the ‘kiddies’ adversely.

    I note with interest that several of this stupid woman’s fellow MP’s were last week complaining about the Judges on Pop Idol for telling some of the contestents that they were too fat to be pop idols. Apparently it is wrong to either promote fatness or criticise it.

  • Kelli

    Allow me to respectfully disagree. We certainly can do SOMETHING. Here’s what. I can’t say for certain what kids eat in UK schools (though I did attend U of Sussex for a year and the food was, shall we say, pure stodge) but here in the US we feed students revolting garbage, apparently in the mistaken belief that it’s better to see them eat something round noon than throw decent food in the trash and pass out during afternoon classes. No one monitors what kids eat (or whether they eat at all) and I suppose if I were inclined to poison my children I could give each a bag of sweets a day, no one would say boo.

    While kids are in school we owe it to them to make sure they (and, if necessary, their parents) learn the basics of nutrition and, in the secondary school years, how to cook simple healthy meals. This can be made mandatory, not optional.

    Once the kids are out of school, they are presumed to be able to look after themselves, and if they want to eat nothing but Ho-Hos and milkshakes, that is not my business.

    How’s that for a compromise solution?

  • Cydonia


    “While kids are in school we owe it to them to make sure they (and, if necessary, their parents) learn the basics of nutrition and, in the secondary school years, how to cook simple healthy meals. This can be made mandatory, not optional”

    So your “compromise” is compulsory cooking lessons for mom and dad (“if necessary”).

    Just one question Kelli – what if Mom and Dad were to refuse to attend the mandatory lessons or flunked the end of term test? Should the kids be taken away by social workers and put into Thin Camp?

    Just curious.

  • Kelli


    Something got muddled here. I meant that students (and only students) in state schools should be given instruction in cooking. The “mandatory” is meant to prevent this from turning into a “girls and dweebs only” course, not as a form of punishment. I know a lot of grownups who could benefit from such a course in cookery but I’d be loathe to force the issue (perhaps they could be given the option to sit in on it with their kids).

    Sorry for failing to make myself clear (or is it for failing to march in lockstep with the Samizdata thought police?)

  • Cydonia

    To catch Brian, go to


    Then click “skip 5 minutes” until you get to 35.00. The piece starts at 36:49.

  • Verity

    Kelli – Vee heff vays off meking you quit cooking. (Thought police.) I never had the slightest interest in cooking in my life. The thought of chopping things up fills me with ennui. My eyes cloud over when I realise that everything has to be finished and still hot at the same time. I would have regarded lessons – which are lessons in lifestyle and not academic subjects – as an intrusion on my liberty. Actually, I did have – enforced – cooking lessons and I did so regard them. And I still can’t cook. Teach nutrition and how to interpret the back of a package, fine. So one can judge which frozen, instantly microwavable dinner has the fewest toxins. No probs. But don’t make children get out sieves and little scales and do all that chopping and sautéing and calculating. Many of us were not cut out to cook and refused to learn the lessons even while we were in class and figured a failing grade was worth it.

  • Kelli


    Well, I’ll take half a loaf (ha!) to nothing. My primary point (and I dare anyone to argue about it! g’on) is that we are now two generations removed from the “miracle” of processed foodlike substances in the West, and a good deal of the populace shares your abhorrance of all things kitcheny. It’s not a crime (just a crying shame as my mom would say). Let all children taste fresh-cooked meals, even if they never learn how to make one. Public education fills them with lots of useless knowledge they will never use and much they will soon learn to refute–why not give them some life skills while they’re at it?

  • ed


    As I generally prefer to eat less and take long walks in order to drop a few pounds I’d prefer not to recieve any nonsensical responses please.

    1. I remember reading about “polyester food” a decade or so ago. The principle was to create food that tasted exactly like the real item, but was instead created out of artificial polymers and other indisgestible materials. In essence you could eat a tub of lasgana and the food value would equal just about zero.

    (Note I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to actually pass this while on the commode. Just a quick note to really disgust people abroad and at home)

    2. Another option is to create reduced calorie version of common staple products, notably grains. By using biotech techniques specialty GM grains could be created that specifically reduce or eliminate fats and carbs. How it would taste I couldn’t say, but a successful strain would probably create billions of dollars of wealth as the great new “diet product for the ages”.

    *shrug* amazing to me how much people will pay to avoid eating less.


  • B's Freak

    Won’t natural selection take care of the obesity problem given the current state of the NHS?