Should healthy eating be made mandatory?
It is well documented that healthy eating is extremely beneficial in keeping people healthy, preventing diseases like cancer, increasing life expectancy etc. As this is the case should healthy eating be made mandatory? It is much more likely that there would be legislation on school dinners than for all adults too, but suppose there was such legislation would this be useful or the nanny state gone mad? It would have been unthinkable to think about banning smoking 50 years ago, it is now often debated.
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Our economy suffers because of unhealthy eating
Obesity is the cause of many diseases and cancers. Heart attacks and colon cancer are two of the most reported. 10-16% of cases of breast and colon cancer and heart attacks are said to be caused by obesity [[BMA, December 2007]]. These are long standing diseases which take a variety of drugs to cure or at least alleviate the symptoms. These drugs are expensive, and many people who have not caused their own disease miss out on new drugs as the NHS is not willing to pay the extra money for the drugs. If healthy eating were mandatory, then less money would be needed by the NHS to heal people who have eaten themselves to oblivion and more money can be spent on newer drugs.
The problem here is that the NHS does not have enough money, the Government are failing to be cost effective and they are failing to budget. There should not have to be a choice between different drugs on the basis of costs. If the Government sorted the NHS out, all people, healthy- and not healthy- eaters could receive treatment. If the Government brought in a scheme of mandatory healthy eating and legislated on it, their motive would be to save money not lives. The fact of the matter is though, there is no research to suggest that the time and effort put into drafting mandatory healthy eating standards and the subsequent enforcement of it would cost less than treating those people who do suffer due to their poor eating habits.
People are too lazy to do it of their own accord
“Change for Life” is the Government’s latest rhetoric to try and deal with obesity and unhealthy life styles. But who is listening? Those who want to eat healthily are, those who cannot be bothered are not going to pay attention to a colourful ad campaign. There has been so much coverage on obesity now that anyone who has not changed their lifestyle is unlikely to do so unless it is made mandatory.
People should not be forced into healthy eating, it should be a choice. The Government should release more information so that people’s choices cohere with healthy options rather than imposing healthy eating on the nation.
The current “Change for Life” campaign is based around children. The colour scheme is appealing to children as are the images. But let us not forget that it is the parents who make the eating decisions, they cook, they shop. So perhaps the Government should make more advertising based around adults, produce a campaign which is more appealing to that demographic. Doing this is a much better balance between healthy eating and freedom of choice, than making healthy eating mandatory.
It would be our rational choice
It could be said that if we were to think rationally, every human really wants to eat healthily but other factors influence their choice. Things such as supermarket advertising, and brand promotion. These forms of advertising have the human will so bound up we are almost hypnotized into eating unhealthily, we only do it because we are told to. By making healthy eating mandatory all the Government would be doing is giving effect to our own true, rational, free will.
The simple solution to this then is not to impose a mandatory healthy eating bill but to impose restrictions on supermarkets and their advertising. According to this argument, if people were to choose freely, then they would chose the healthy options. Therefore, stop shops putting special offers on unhealthy foods. This is a much lighter restriction which will require less drafting and will impose less on individuals’ freedom.
Who dictates what is a rational choice? If it really was what humans want to do, why don't they do it already? Advertising isn't hypnotism, its just someone persuading you to do something - you can resist it. People choose to eat unhealthily for just as rational reasons - for instance, they prefer food that is cheap, or tastes nice.
It will result in a more meritocratic Britain
Dr. Emmett has released the results of his 17 year survey on 9,000 children and their eating habits[[Dr Emmett, University of Bristol, January 2009]]. She discovered that children who ate healthy from an early age were more likely to achieve highly in education than those who had an unhealthy diet at a young age. This shows that children are not reaching their full potential because of the choices that their parents make regarding their food intake. To make Britain meritocratic, and give every child equal opportunities, a level eating playing field needs to be created, and the only way to ensure this is to legislate against unhealthy eating.
Parents currently cannot control what their child eats when not in their care
Working parents who leave their children with child minders and nurseries cannot control what their children eat. If Dr Emmett’s survey is correct (see footnote above), then what a child eats before the age of 3 is of utmost importance to later life education. Given these facts, we should legislate to make healthy eating mandatory so that parents know that their child is eating healthily when out of their care.
The government should not impact on our private lives
Central government would be acting outside its powers if it were to make such a large intrusion on our private lives. We already cannot smoke in public, this is to avoid harming other people, but if the government were to come along and tell us that we were not allowed to smoke in our own homes, everyone would agree that the government would be going too far. Now think of an official in our kitchen, watching our every move; giving us stern looks and getting the cuffs out of his pocket every time we reached out for the biscuit tin. Such an intrusion is so offensive that it seems ridiculous.
It was this very argument that people used to justify domestic violence not being policed. The belief that Government should keep out of our private lives leave the public in grave danger. Think back to the Baby P case. Should the parents have been prosecuted? They did their acts in the privacy of their own home; so by this privacy argument they should not have been prosecuted. Whilst less extreme, parents are harming their child by feeding them the wrong sorts of food, and we need to protect these children in any way we can; privacy be damned.
Too hard to legislate on.
There is a question of degree when you talk about healthy eating. One biscuit will not give you a heart attack. Eating unhealthy foods for one day will not give you a heart attack. So where would the legislators draw the line when drafting the legislation? How much unhealthy food would we be allowed to consume? Or would an entire ban on all healthy foods be put in place? What if someone treats themselves to an unhealthy meal every day, but they exercise to make up for it? Will they be classified as healthy or unhealthy? Does healthy eating mean that anorexics and bulimics will be punished? There are so many variables that it would be impossible for any draftsmen to create this legislative instrument.
Too hard to enforce
How would Government be able to enforce this piece of legislation if it was eventually drafted. Would we have weekly blood tests? Or would we have a camera placed in our mouths surgically so that everything we ate was documented? The cost of either of these methods would outweigh the costs that unhealthy diets have on society in the first place! And what would the punishment be? Could people actually go to jail for eating unhealthily? If that be the case, what are the standards of prison food? He standards of that food will have to be increased if people were being put in there for not eating healthily. The whole enforcement of such a legislation would cost so much in comparison to a more engaging advertising campaign.
There is no one healthy diet
There are many diets available for people to try/enjoy, but no one diet is superior in health to another. You may argue against the healthiness of red meat but Stearic acid is good for you. You may argue for eating fish, but then there is mercury poisoning (a trace element in fish) resulting from eating too much fish in one go. Greeks do not have longer healthier lives than anyone else[[http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html]]. There was a study by BBC a few years ago on regions where a lot of people live for over a hundred years and the results revealed that the cause was varying diets and/or forms of exercise/physical exertion. The main similarity between people who live very long was/is that they were/are all involved in 'some' kind of physical activity, faith and that they ate/eat until they were/are 'half'-full.-[[http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7250675.stm]] but there WAS nothing/squat/zero/zilch on a wonder diet that they ALL ate, as noted earlier: all these 'old people' had/have very different diets.
What do you think?