What is the point of the National Food Strategy? When Henry Dimbleby was hired as Britain’s ‘food tsar’ several years ago, the idea was to develop some blue sky thinking and to have someone look at the issue with a fresh pair of eyes, but when he produced his first report last year, it contained the same generic, flat-pack, bone-headed, nanny-state recommendations that every other voice of the establishment had been calling for. So predictable were his conclusions that the government had already committed itself to implementing most of them by the time it was published and he resorted to moaning about Percy Pigs to give himself an angle.
The second part of the strategy has now been published and it is, incredibly, even worse than the first. Having given up ventriloquising for Public Health England, Dimbleby is now taking his ideas directly from the man in the pub. ‘What I reckon, right, is if you whack up the price of junk food, yeah, and give people vegetables for free, you won’t have obesity no more. S’obvious!’
To this end, he proposes a £3 per kilogram tax on sugar and a £6 per kilogram tax on salt, with the stated aim of encouraging food companies to ‘reformulate’ their products. As a chaser, he is calling for GPs to prescribe fruit and vegetables to their fat patients for free.
It is an indication of how much this country has lost its mind that these ideas were not immediately laughed out of the room. Instead, chin-stroking commentators on breakfast radio adopted them as their own and the sugar/salt tax was pinned to the top of the BBC News website. Perhaps this is meant to provide light relief from more serious issues, but let us recall for a moment what those issues are.
We have just had the deepest recession in 300 years.