Mars takes the lead on tackling obesity

My morning surf of the internet brought me into contact with the usual sorts of articles that we typically find in regards to health and fitness. So I saw plenty of quick-fix diets that promise to rid you of your excess fat in just weeks, as well as the normal timed workouts that offer something very similar. Thankfully most of us are almost tuned into knowing which articles are nonsense and which articles might be talking some sense. 

And that brought me to this story, which you have probably read about today because most UK news networks have picked it up:

Generally, I obviously enjoy reading any health and fitness story that makes the news because I believe it something that needs to be spoken about a little more. But what was especially pleasing about this article was to see that big companies, who often get a lot of stick when it comes to this sort of thing, are actually willing to promote unique initiatives to tackle obesity, even if it could harm sales figures.

Talking about limits on certain nutrients in food/drink, as well as providing proper information on reading food labels is something this blog repeatedly does. So finding initiatives that seek to achieve the same goals is great.

The sugar tax that will come into play in UK in two years time is something that I discussed previously here even before it made its way through parliament. And the big concern surrounding is is that, while levying against sugary drinks, the sugar tax might not fairly penalise companies who supply unhealthy food as well.

If you have read the BBC article above you should have a pretty clear understanding of what Mars are planning to do. Basically, they will start to categorise their foods as either everyday or occasional, with the latter obviously being for foods that are higher in things such as saturated fat, sugar and salt. But just like with the sugar tax, this scheme has its critics.

The opposing argument is essentially this: those who want to eat healthily already take more notice of food labels and so this won’t really affect them. What’s more, they also choose to purchase fresh produce and avoid any foods that have been processed. So the people who are hit by this are those families who rely on processed food as a cheap and easy alternative to making meals from scratch.

It’s an interesting debate and criticism that takes this form should emphasise processed food as a time-saving alternative, not a cost-saving one. The comparative cost to families is obviously affected by the number of people being fed and whether or not the family all eat the same food at the same time but the fact remains that it is possible to spend the same amount of money on unprocessed food that can feed the whole family. So assuming that eating more healthily is going to cost you more isn’t always the case but it will usually take more time.

Personally I don’t see that as a con to eating healthily. A lot of people enjoy preparing their own meals and feel better at the end of it because they know they are eating a healthy meal. Of course I would prefer that it was second nature to everyone to check every label before it goes in the basket but we have to be realistic and accept that isn’t the case right now. So if that means that companies like Mars continue to fund these initiatives which give the consumer more information then I can only see that as a positive thing.

One thing we can say for certain is that companies and the state can only do so much. When it comes down to it, those people who want to eat healthily will and those who don’t want to won’t. The role of our industry is to provide the information that hopefully helps to encourage better lifestyle choices.

Ollie Lawrence
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