Tuesday 22 June 2010

NICE Work If You Can Get It

You always know when the righteous have come out with a work of superlative ineptitude when just about everyone rips it apart with little effort (remember Preston Policy Exchange?). Unfortunately for NICE, their laughable mish-mash today has been treated in such a manner so I won't add more than a mish-mash of observations.

Firstly, there's something disingenuous about the cost argument for healthy (ie non-processed/fast foods)

Poorer people have up to a threefold increased risk of heart disease over those who live in more affluent areas of the country. The focus for the Nice committee was safeguarding the population, rather than advising the individual who may have limited options.

[Klim McPherson, professor of health epidemiology at Oxford University and chairman of the Nice committee said] "It is about busy people having a lot to do, having to make choices on the fly, making pragmatic choices on how they feed themselves and their children," said McPherson. "Commercial organisations are very good at exploiting people who make choices on price and convenience."
He wibbled on.

“Where food is concerned, we want the healthy choice to be the easy choice. Going even further, we want the healthy choice to be the less expensive, more attractive choice."
Now, I don't understand this. We are consistently told that healthy, non-processed food is the cheapest option.

In fact, it is demonstrably true. If one really cares about healthy food, pasta, tomatoes, garlic and mixed herbs, for example, will make a family meal for buttons. If you want meat, even enough of the leanest pork for four will only set you back around £3. Combine potatoes to half a pound of minced beef and a carrot and you have cottage pie for six.

Anyone can do this, and it doesn't take knowledge of food ingredients or the difficult (for some, apparently) task of reading the mandatory nutrition details on the label.

So, considering healthy food is already the cheapest, we are into the 'easy' territory. In fact, that is all this guidance is about - the fact that the food industry markets to a public who wish to buy food which is simple to prepare.

It is consumer choice they are trying to restrict, pure and simple.

So why has most of the coverage today focussed on the 'evil' food industry? Well, probably because if NICE had attacked the true source of the problem - people who don't worry too much about food and choose things which are simple to prepare - their advice wouldn't come across as very caring, would it?

If Mike Kelly had turned up on BBC Breakfast, and declared that he was determined to stop the poor buying shit, Guardian readers, far from indulging in an anti-industry frenzy, would have vehemently turned on him instead.

Much more persuasive to target the imperialist capitalist food manufacturers who consistently reduce prices for the consumer in the face of overwhelming demand, eh?

It's the way you tell 'em, ain't it Mike?

Similarly sinister is the suggestion that fast food outlets should be banned near schools. There can, of course, be no suggestion that such places are the cheaper alternative, only that the people who pay NICE's wages - you know, us - very much like what they sell, and that just won't do.

This idea has been trialled already in the UK and the results weren't pretty as I pointed out last year. 'Near schools' soon turns into 'near schools, parks and leisure centres' ... and 'near' soon becomes 'not as near as first suggested'.

The essence of the 'next logical step' principle.

And all for what? Naturally, it's the false economy of saving cost to the NHS.

They believe that reducing salt and saturated fats, as well as banning trans-fats, would save the NHS more than £1bn.
That there are still millions in our country who believe such a whopping fib is proof that the funding of NICE should be shifted into education sharpish.

Healthy people cost the country far more than the unhealthy, and when pension provision is taken into consideration, the idea that - somehow - people dying early will cost the country more becomes pure comedy.

Hey, don't argue with me that life isn't all about cost ... I'm not the one making that gambit. It's just very simple to disprove, is all.

So, NICE's advice today boils down to ...

- Some lies
- The poor aren't making the correct decisions so we must force them to do so.
- Expensive food is popular so we have to ban it
- We hate the capitalist food industry which has enhanced choice
- The NHS profits from poor health but if we said so we'd not have a job tomorrow

Little wonder, then, that the government told them to shove it. With any luck, this will start a trend for the new lot.

But just in case they are wavering, may I remind them of a previous gem from NICE?

Hiking booze prices will force shops to slash the cost of food - and lead to greater state benefits, say a health watchdog.

[...] the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence believe that if supermarkets cannot entice customers with cut-price booze, they will use food as "loss leaders" instead.
Yes, that's right. If the coalition ramps up alcohol prices with, say, a minimum price, food will get cheaper and NICE can start the whole 'cheap food is killing the country' meme again.

Clever, huh?


Mark Wadsworth said...

DP, a veritable tour de force there. Especially the point that the healthiest food is by and large the cheapest anyway.

I've think you've gone and disproved lies that they haven't even got round to telling yet :-)

Ta for link. As to the 'near schools' things that is bollocks as I explained a while back.

Anonymous said...

I can't understand why 'poorer' people get more heart attacks. Surely they cant afford to do al the things that are supposed to cause heart attacks.
Whereas, I am wealthy !! I nice lottery win made sure of that back in 2007.
I love fatty fast food,salt,sugar,cigarettes and plenty of booze.
So now that I am rich I don't need to worry about a heart attack !!

subrosa said...

Auch Mark beat me to it. Now, you won't believe this but it's all American's fault. I honestly believe that.

I've just had a text from someone in the US who is staying, for work reasons, in a Holiday Inn, or something of that nature. He's been to the US for many years.

Yet he said his breakfast request for scrambled egg would have fed four soldiers in a UK mess. He was embarrassed to leave more than half.

I'm not talking about a picky-food person because I know that particular person well. His message was that the US and the UK need to stop these portions.

If government wants to do something for health, they ought to insist upon portion control in food establishments and I mean fast food places.

It will never happen until 'too many' children die before their parents and the deaths are due to obesity.

subrosa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuckles said...


Anonymous said...

Fuckin portion control? What are you? A selective libertarian? Big Government bad, unless forcing small portions on people.

Nobody is forcing you or anyone else to clear their plate. Ask for a smaller portion and negotiate a discount or leave what you don't need.

Anonymous said...

Klim McPherson is another one of these healthtards who have no twatting idea of how the world operates.

Is Klim McPherson that sure that someone such as I, someone who works twelve hours a day, has that much choice over what he eats compared to someone who has hours of leisure time?

And from what planet does Klim McPherson come when he cannot get it through his professorial head that poor people eat shit because they are stupid and lazy?

I eat well and spend little on the finest produce when I choose to do so. We are blessed that these options are available. People like Klim McPherson want to use the force of Government to push their own agenda, but it will not work. Markets beat bullshit every time.

People like Klim McPherson wouldn't have a job if they could not bleat. If they said, well, the food choices in London are far superior to those in Frankfurt (which they are), so there is nothing to worry about, someone paying Klim McPherson might think - well, do we really need him? By setting off a scare, he gets attention, publicity and shitloads of money for - er - setting off a scare.

Poor people eat shit food. Always have, always will. It boils my piss that people like Klim McPherson want to take money from my pocket to pay for their pet projects. Fuck off and leave me alone.

Anonymous said...

Portion control.

Working Jew 1,800 calories/day
Non-working Jew, 900 calories/day
Sick Jew - whatever working Jew will spare.

Sometimes I want to eat a lot. Sometimes I don't. I choose my restaurant accordingly, not according to some Government diktat, and I do not want to go home hungry because someone else says I have to.

My BMI is 21.4 because I have self-control, not because someone else tells me what to do.

Dick Puddlecote said...

"If government wants to do something for health, they ought to insist upon portion control in food establishments and I mean fast food places."

Rosie: If you're reading here today, you need to check your internet security, cos someone claiming to be you posted that.


Dick Puddlecote said...

MW: Ta, and your link is a good read. How do you retrieve such so easily?

Chuckles: Nice link. Yes, it's intrinsically a snobbery thing.

Anon@22:49: Nice rant, can't disagree with any of that.

JuliaM said...

"If government wants to do something for health, they ought to insist upon portion control in food establishments and I mean fast food places."

I've been to the USA. I, too, have looked aghast at the portuon sizes.

Then I ate what I wanted, and left the rest.

BTS said...

I've been dying for an excuse to link to this:


It just all goes so beautifully pear-shaped in the 6th paragraph and yet the poor, deluded soul somehow neglects to notice..

Junican said...

Subrosa, darling.

If you are going to make comments on other people's blogs which are tongue in cheek, you really ought to exagerate more. One must think about Desperate Dan's cow pie. But one must be sure to hide the reality. As far as I know, Desperate Dan must be all of one hundred years old by now and is still looking as youthful as ever - so shove your 'portion control' up NICE's rear end and be thankful that it is not yours!

By the way - is life expectancy in the USA more or less than ours?