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Friday 22nd June 2018

Should children be able to choose their own diet?

9th July 2010

Writing in The Guardian, Felicity Lawrence suggests Andrew Lansley's belief that children should be responsible for their own diet choices would be risible were it not so scary.


This house believes obesity is a moral failure and that solving it is a matter of individual responsibility – so said new health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Yet his analysis of public health - that individuals should be more responsible about their dietary choices and schoolchildren will be more responsible about their food – is so facile it would be risible even in a prep-school debating society.

The basic fact that he used, that Jamie Oliver’s campaign to improve school meals put people off school dinners, is not quite the case either. It turns out that Oliver-style ‘nannying’ does work.

Can it be too that Lansley is not aware of how individuals' “free choices” are shaped by marketing and advertising?

Tackling smoking required ‘nannying’ to help people quit.

That’s why the food industry has fought to avoid restrictions on its marketing to children because it has to catch them young.

What is still a significant determinant of how healthy you are is which socioeconomic class you are born into. Lower income families are more likely to suffer from obesity, have high blood pressure and dental disease.

What is truly frightening about Lansley’s speech is that it lays bare the underlying Tory philosophy.

In their Big Society – which casts everything as personal responsibility – social injustice, like obesity, is indeed a moral failure, but only on the part of those who suffer it.


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