Let Them Eat Cake? Not In The Office, Says Health Tsar

A “supportive environment”?
A “supportive environment”?

A “supportive environment”?

Despite strikes, inflation still at a near 40-year high and a government running out of ideas, British politics discourse on Wednesday obsessed over an unlikely question – whether eating cake in an office is acceptable or not.

It came after the head of a food watchdog 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, said while it is a choice to eat sweet treats, people can help each other by providing a “supportive environment”.

What’s been said?

Jebb appeared to compare bringing cake into the office with passive smoking, The Times reported.

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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.”

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The newspaper reported that she also 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.

Jebb later said in a statement that the comments do not “reflect current or planned FSA policy in any way whatsoever”, and they were made in a personal capacity.

What was the reaction?

Not great.

Mark Littlewood, director general of the libertarian think-tank the IEA, said it was “just ludicrous”, while Dr Helen Wall, a GP in Bolton, told the BBC: “If someone’s got cake next to you, you don’t have to eat it. People have to take a bit of responsibility.”

And Twitter was typically measured.

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And the general public are not likely to be following the advice any time soon, at least according to a snap poll.

YouGov asked more than 5,000 Brits what they think about bringing unhealthy foods to the office (“such as cakes or doughnuts”), and revealed that 77 per cent think it is either “completely” or “somewhat” acceptable.

Only 9 per cent said it is “somewhat unacceptable”, while 4 per cent said it is “completely unacceptable”.

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What does the government think?

Rishi Sunak believes in “personal choice” and that people should be allowed to share treats with their colleagues, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Asked whether Sunak agrees, his official spokesman said: “No. The prime minister believes that personal choice should be baked into our approach.

“We want to encourage healthy lifestyles and are taking action to tackle obesity, which has cost the NHS £6 billion annually.

“However, the way to deal with this issue is not to stop people from occasionally bringing in treats for their co-workers.”

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Sunak’s press secretary added that he is “very partial to a piece of cake” and most enjoys carrot and red velvet cake.

No 10 even distributed mini-cupcakes to reporters during the presser in parliament.

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