The dangers of sugar addiction: National newspapers finally speak up too

Sunday 23 January, 2015    


  • It is enough to make a grown man squeak – a scary thought

  • The slow indoctrination of our lives by sugar barons needs to change

  • Finally a national newspaper joins Ray in condemning food companies & politicians alike


Last Friday I described how I enjoyed a quiet Sunday morning with the Archers, coffee and the papers.

It seems to have struck a chord with a great many of you – some even admitted to the same guilty pleasures!

My wife merely harrumphed as I showed her your e-mails, despairing that so many of us were hooked on such torpid broadcasting... the woman has no soul!

She did poke her head around the door last week though, as she was alarmed by the noises I was making.

Normally I am left alone in the office to rant and rave (my standard response to most news nowadays... must be an age thing, I remember my Dad doing much the same when I was a kid) chiding editors and reporters for their poor work.

On this occasion though I was apparently squeaking.

I am prepared to admit an occasional laugh, a chortle and the odd snigger, but a squeak?

“What on earth are you reading?” Lara demanded as she peered around the door jamb, “is there something raunchy in one of the supplements?” Adding that she would get some calm-down pills out if I needed them!

The cheek of it!

Actually what I was reading finally restored my faith in journalists, and maybe did cause me an involuntary exclamation of joy; I want to share what I read with you.

The truth really is this obvious

I’m not sure whether you have seen the latest news from our capital city... no it rarely interests me either! In this case though the London Eye has now been sponsored by Coca-Cola.

Sitting right in the heart of our capital city, visible for miles around and directly in the eyeline of our politicians will be an edifice to a corporate sugar-pedalling giant.

A company that made America and the rest of the world view an appalling drink as a luxury.

I applaud the campaigners from the Children’s Food Campaign who have been handing out toothbrushes around the Eye to highlight the damage done to children’s teeth from these types of drinks.

Their spokesman Malcolm Clark said of the sponsorship 'It sends completely the wrong message, not just here in London, but right across the globe. Soft drinks are the largest source of sugar in children and teenagers' diets, associated with weight gain and obesity, diabetes, heart disease and poor dental health.' 

And he is right.

My heart leapt however when I read the editorial in the Observer who said (and I’ll quote a large part of it because I couldn’t have said better myself! 

‘While the World Health Organisation recommends that 5% of our food energy should come from sugar, children are consuming triple that amount. Further bad news came from the Youth Sport Trust, in its Unlocking Potential report. Only 21% of boys and 16% of girls are exercising sufficiently. Physical education lessons have slumped below the miserly two hours a week set by the previous Labour government. The trust is rightly calling for five hours of physical activity a week in state schools to match that offered by private schools. Eating too much and doing too little may be a personal “choice” for some, but it’s one the nation can ill-afford. So what’s to be done?

‘The first is to show common sense. It is incredible that Merlin Entertainments should consider Coca-Cola a suitable sponsor for the London Eye. As this paper reports, John Middleton, vice-president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, says: “Coca-Cola is the flagship for sugar marketing and therefore the flagship for rotten teeth and diabetes.” The second imperative is for government to wake up to the scale of the health disaster on its doorstep. In February 2010, David Cameron laid out his vision for “a new age of government”. “If you combine this very simple, very conservative thought – go with the grain of human nature – with all the advances in behavioural economics,” he said, “I think we can achieve a real increase in wellbeing… without necessarily having to spend a lot of money.” Money has certainly been tight even as public health issues, supporting improved wellbeing, have disastrously dropped off the agenda, issues such as plain packages for cigarettes, minimum pricing on alcohol and an end to selling sports fields. In 2013-14, the NHS budget was over £95bn, compared with only £1.8 bn allocated to Public Health England to promote “wellness”.

‘The lack of investment in prevention, married to politicians’ fear of the charge of “uber-interference” and “the nanny state”, means that multinationals have too little restraint. We accept the so-called nanny state edicts on seat belts, smoking and drink, so why can’t the state take a much greater role in improving the food that is sold to us and marketed to our children?’

This is exactly what I have been writing about for years, and seeing it writ large in a national newspaper made me feel like I wasn’t such a lone voice in the wilderness; the concluding paragraph called for action which I think we can all endorse:

‘Managing diet, taking exercise and aiming for fitness can’t be directly stipulated in law. Parents, government, the community and the commercial sector all play a part in taking responsibility. However, the balance of power is skewed against the ordinary citizen, particularly those penalised by profound health inequalities, and towards those with profit in mind. The state has to play a far more dynamic role than Labour envisages or the coalition provides, to ensure that what does us good, at a price we can afford, becomes the established framework for a healthy life.’

It would have been easy for me to regurgitate the topics I have covered relating to the insidious nature of big food companies like Coca-Cola in making our children, and indeed us, sugar junkies.

But having the Observer sitting four square behind everything I have ever written was justification enough for me to squeak... even if it did startle my family.

Yours, as always



The Observer; Comment Editorial Sunday 18 January 2015, accessed via (23 January 2015)


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