Bringing cake into work is as harmful to colleagues as secondhand smoking, Britain’s top food tsar has warned.
Professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency, also slammed ministers over a decision to delay a watershed for junk food advertising.
She said the move has led to a ‘complete market failure’ that has squeezed out healthy foods.
Professor Jebb, who teaches diet and population health at the University of Oxford, told the Times: ‘If nobody brought in cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day – but because people do bring cakes in, I eat them.
Professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency, says bringing cake into work is as harmful to colleagues as secondhand smoking
The professor says: ‘If nobody brought in cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day’
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide
‘Now, okay, I have made a choice, but people were making a choice to go into a smoky pub.’
She added: ‘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.
‘But we still don’t feel like that about food.’
She concluded that passive smoking inflicts harm on others ‘and exactly the same is true of food’.
Professor Jebb has also pushed for doctors to be more open to approaching patients about their weight and offering help with dieting.
She criticised many for currently refraining from discussing the topic.
A former government advisor on obesity, Professor Jebb also hit out at the Government for delaying a junk food advertising ban, which she said is ‘undermining people’s free will’ to eat vegetables.
‘Advertising means that the businesses with the most money have the biggest influence on people’s behaviour,’ she said.
‘That’s not fair. At the moment we allow advertising for commercial gain with no health controls on it whatsoever and we’ve ended up with a complete market failure because what you get advertised is chocolate and not cauliflower.’
She also insisted obesity in the UK could be treated, saying ‘pretty cheap interventions’ such as weight management programmes would help.
It comes as Lord Rose of Monewden, chairman of Asda, told the Times Health Commission on Monday that workplaces need to do more for employee’s health.
He asked: ‘Why don’t we lobby to say that also in that process as employers, we have a legal obligation to do something about our employees’ health?’
Two thirds of adults in the UK are currently overweight – a figure that has doubled in the last 30 years.
Treating obesity-related illnesses, like high blood pressure, diabetes, and several cancers, is estimated to cost the NHS £6billion a year
Former prime minister Boris Johnson famously declared war on the nation’s waistlines in 2020, ditching his previous aversion to nanny-state style nutrition policies, after his own weight exacerbated his Covid infection.
Professor Jebb has also criticised the Government for delaying a junk food advertising ban amid increasing obesity in the UK
She argues that passive smoke inflicts harm on others ‘and exactly the same is true of food’
But the Government last year backed down on several schemes, delaying a ban on ‘buy one get one free’ junk food deals and a 9pm watershed for sugary snacks for a least a year in a bid to help poorer families with food bills.
And last month Health Secretary Steve Barclay delayed an advertising ban until 2025.
He is resistant to bans and instead wants ‘more positive ways to promote healthy living’.
Meanwhile, Professor Jebb wants to introduce inexpensive interventions that ‘yield huge benefits’ including NHS weight management programmes.