SIRC Media Watch Archive
Comment and Opinion – November 2003

Killer hamburgers ride again — (By Dale Atrens). The Blair government is about to get tough on obesity in children. An emergency salt summit is being held. The hounds of hysteria are baying loudly. The Observer grimly observed "Official: fat epidemic will cut life expectancy." This catchy prediction is a theoretical calculation that flies in the face of easily observable facts. The increase in weight observed in the UK and other western nations is not correctly described as an 'epidemic'. It has been going on steadily for about 50 years as life expectancy has steadily increased. As we are told daily, the main culprit in obesity is Ronald McDonald who has debauched the appetites of our children with destructive high fat, high salt, high sugar food. As a result of the irresistible lure of fast food, children are eating themselves to death. The seriously silly notion of food addiction is being taken seriously. The science behind this hysteria merits examination. Full article.

As seen on television? As if orchestrated by a hidden hand, the issue of advertising food to children looms large in the media – particularly that section appealing to middle class readers. The Observer led the way with the rehashed claim that the current generation of children will have shorter lives than their parents, due mainly to levels of obesity. There was no recognition, however, of the fact that fat kids do not necessarily go on to be fat adults – in fact only about one third of them do. But then, that would have complicated the Observer's 'junk food timebomb' headline. Much of the Observer article was taken up with the role of the Food Standards Agency in preventing this 'ticking bomb' from exploding – and the options being entertained by its head, Sir John Krebs. Controls on advertising food to children? Bans on vending machines in schools? Coercing children even more to eat 'proper meals'? All of these, apparently, are up for negotiation. Full story.