Prue Leith Speaks Out After Health Tsar Compares Office Cakes To Passive Smoking

Prue Leith
Prue Leith

Prue Leith

Dame Prue Leith has joined the debate about whether it is acceptable to bring cake into the office or not, and unsurprisingly, the Great British Bake Off judge is not having any of it.

Earlier this week the head of the UK’s 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”.

She then went on to compare bringing cake into the office with passive smoking.

“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,” she told The Times.

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During an appearance on Times Radio on Friday, Prue insisted that comparing bringing cake into the office to passive smoking is “no way to tackle the obesity crisis”.

“It’s no good telling people they can’t have things they like,” Prue said.

“That’s no way to tackle the obesity crisis.

“I think it’s a bad idea to just say to people, you mustn’t eat cake and taking cake into an office is like passive smoking. I think we need to say yes, of course, you should occasionally eat cake, it’s just not a good idea to eat a lot. 

“And we should be encouraging people to learn about food, rather than just lecturing them for eating the wrong food too much.”

Prue then went on to cite Henry Dimbleby’s Food Strategy Report, describing it as “the best government document that’s ever come out.”

“What he’s saying is we should tax sugar, salt and foods and we should spend that money on helping the very people who are in the cycle of eating junk food, because they can’t cook and they don’t understand about food; vulnerable people, disadvantaged people who are at most risk of obesity and most likely to eat really bad food,” Prue said.

“They’re the people who will suffer if we just ban it. But if we make it more expensive by taxing it, sure they will eat far less of it, but if the tax money is spent on making healthy food much more accessible and cheaper for vulnerable people and giving families and children cookery lessons and teaching them about food and changing their attitudes… we need to change people’s attitudes.”

Prue isn’t the only one to speak out against Professor Susan Jebb remarks.

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.” 

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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.