Food watchdog boss warns against bringing cake to the office

The head of a food watchdog has appeared to suggest people should not bring cake into the office for the sake of their colleagues’ health.

Professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency, also lamented that the advertising of junk food is “undermining people’s free will”.

She said while it is a choice to eat sweet treats, people can help each other by providing a “supportive environment”.

She told The Times: “We all like to think we’re rational, intelligent, educated people who make informed choices the whole time, and we undervalue the impact of the environment.

“If nobody brought cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day, but because people do bring cakes in, I eat them. Now, OK, I have made a choice, but people were making a choice to go into a smoky pub.

“With smoking, after a very long time we have got to a place where we understand that individuals have to make some effort but that we
can make their efforts more successful by having a supportive environment.

“We still don’t feel like that about food.”

The newspaper reported that she insisted restrictions on advertising junk food were “not about the nanny state” but would instead tackle what she described as a “complete market failure” where sweet goods take precedence over vegetables.

She told the paper: “The businesses with the most money have the biggest influence on people’s behaviour. That’s not fair…we’ve ended up with a complete market failure, because what you get advertised is chocolate and not cauliflower.”

Successive governments have failed to introduce a long-promised ban on pre-watershed TV advertising for junk food, with Rishi Sunak’s new administration announcing in December that the anti-obesity measure will not come into force until 2025.