Britain’s Fat Fight: the ‘elephant in the room’ (no pun intended)...

Hugh's Letter


Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recent television series made some good points, and his continuing campaign to restrict junk food marketing, etc, should be supported, but I don’t think he quite gets to the heart of the problem.

The ‘elephant in the room’ is not really the fact that we eat a lot of food that ruins our health – it’s that we live in an economic system that is fundamentally based on getting us to consume more and more of anything and everything – regardless of our well-being, or that of our natural environment, or anything except extracting the maximum profit.

Why does the food industry put junk like huge doses of sugar in our food?  For 2 reasons:

1. It’s cheap – so they make more profit;

2. It makes other cheap ingredients taste better – so we buy it – and they make more profit.

This is unhealthy – but it’s an ill health that is not just built into the food – it is built into the economic basis of food production, distribution and retailing.  Oh – and the basis of just about everything else we buy too.

Of course Hugh’s proposals for more regulation of the food industry – like restricting junk food marketing – might offer a partial solution; but the idea he is really missing is social enterprise.  The key discovery of social enterprise is that it is perfectly possible to set up and run a good business – make a good living – but at the same time work for the common good.

What these social enterprises demonstrate is that ‘free enterprise’ does not need capitalism - does not need to maximise the accumulation of huge private wealth – and that we can in reality use business models and methods just as easily for our common benefit as for private gain.

By all means let’s fight the fat alongside Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – but we won’t win unless we fight the fat-cats too.