Sunday, 5 Feb 2023

Office cake culture compared to passive smoking

Boris Johnson slams Jamie Oliver's criticism of obesity policy in May

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Bringing a cake into your office should be seen as unhealthy as passive smoking, according to Britain’s top food watchdog. Professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency also fumed at ministers decision to delay a watershed for junk food advertising blasting the move as a “complete market failure” that marginalised healthy products.

She also challenged doctors to become more willing to discuss the topic of patients’ weight, arguing that it was a bad thing “complete market failure”.

Jebb, who is a professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford, said that it was not enough to rely on the “extraordinary efforts” of personal willpower.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Professor Jebb argued that although personal choice and willpower were important, we as a society undervalue the importance of the environment will live in.

She went on to argue that before widespread indoor public smoking bans, people were making a choice by going into “smoky” pubs but since most pubs were full of tobacco their choices were limited.

In the same way in many offices people bring in cakes to share with their colleagues people can make a choice not to eat them but this can be difficult due to the ubiquity of the phenomena and peer pressure.

She said: “We all like to think we’re rational, intelligent, educated people who make informed choices the whole time and we undervalue the impact of the environment.

“If nobody brought in cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day, but because people do bring cakes in, I eat them.

“Now, OK, I have made a choice, but people were making a choice to go into a smoky pub.”

She added that although the two issues weren’t identical , passive smoking inflicted harm on others “and exactly the same is true of food”.

The professor said: “With smoking, after a very long time, we have got to a place where we understand that individuals have to make some effort but that we can make their efforts more successful by having a supportive environment.

“But we still don’t feel like that about food.”

Professor Jebb went on to argue that eventually society had decided that individuals have to make some effort to tackle unhealthy habits like smoking but she added that environmental factors were also important.

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She said: “With smoking, after a very long time, we have got to a place where we understand that individuals have to make some effort but that we can make their efforts more successful by having a supportive environment.

“But we still don’t feel like that about food.”

According to 2016 figures from Our World in Data, 29.5 percent of adults in the UK are obese with 63.7 percent being overweight.

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