The Obesity Epidemic- Cashing in on the Problems

Asian News RochdaleAsian image By Majed Iqbal- People who are overweight could be paid to get slim, the government has suggested this week as part of its national strategy to tackle the obesity epidemic. Proposed measures include involving schools, employers, the food industry, GPs and others which are intended to encourage individuals to eat better and exercise more in part of the governments £75m campaign plans.

It is believed without action, almost nine in 10 adults and two-thirds of children will be overweight or obese by 2050 and at risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other health problems, costing society £50bn a year, according to a recent report by scientists commissioned by the government.

The “paid to get slim” idea is a proposal to offer cash incentives to adults comes from the US, where a study last September found that the more money people were promised, the more weight they lost.

However, children are the primary focus of this campaign and the heated debate seems to have centre around them. Arguments have spurred over junk food advertising on television before 9pm as well as direct targeting of leading food brands on children’s games websites.

Betty McBride, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “The government is backing down from taking on industry in the fight against obesity. It is naive to expect voluntary compliance from an industry that is putting hundreds of millions of pounds into promoting these foods every year. Self-interest will always win out.”

Veiled by the usual façade of cosmetic style politics demonstrated across the board by all Political parties, the real reasons of this endemic are being swept away under the carpet. We live in a society where “Prophets” are sidelined to pub jokes and their messages caricatured while “Profits” remain the benchmark of any activity in life.

No doubt, this remains the same standard for corporate food companies who thrive on the same philosophy of life, many of which have played a pivotal role in financing and sponsoring various Political Parties in their campaigns and boosting their credibility at key stages.

Tesco sponsored the National Reception at the Labour Party conference in 2006 and its CEO, Sir Terry Leahy, sits on no less than four Government task forces. In 2005 Tesco gave some £30,000 to Labour and about £8,000 to the Lib Dems since 2001, though the company says it has also given £5,552 to the Conservative Party. Despite heavily criticized for commercial exploitation of UK farmers and food producers, little action has been taken by government to resolve these issues.

Nestle sponsored a variety of events including five Foreign Policy Centre fringe events for the Government and had a half page advert in the event brochure and an exhibition at the conference. Nestle is subject to ongoing boycotts because of its irresponsible marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Novartis, a large European drugs group, which has been criticised by environmental campaigners for its genetically modified foods, was a key sponsor at the Labour Blackpool conference in 1998.

The list continues clearly highlighting the in-bed relationship between the Food industry and the Government. This continues across the spectrum in all spheres of life and is adhered to by any party who has been in office;

During the 1980s, many of the UK’s top 100 companies gave huge sums to the Conservative Party, totalling more than £10m between 1986 and 1993. In 2001, Sir Paul Getty’s donated £5m to the Conservative Party while £2.5m was given to Labour by the then Science minister, Lord Sainsbury.

Government will simply not sacrifice profits over issues which it feels are of no financial value and that dictates the agenda. Even Ofcom, the independent TV Monitor showed no difference in thinking and calculated in 2006, that a ban on children TV advertisements after 9pm would cost ITV, Channel 4 and Five about £100m a year in lost advertising

These relationships are a mirror image of Western Styled Democratic Politics where policies are cashed in favour of those who cash into the parties at the right times, only to reap the rewards when these very same parties come into power.

So do you think the government is at all sincere in tackling obesity and making a positive contribution to people’s lives. They might be! After all, if there’s too many obese people, who’s going to do the work and bring boom to the economy?

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