/ Food & Drink, Health

Who’s responsible for tackling obesity?

I recently discussed the government’s plans to trim down obesity. Many felt that we should take more responsibility for what we eat. So, is the government, industry or the hungry public ultimately responsible?

Our research has shown that most people know what they should be eating to be healthy. Give or take a few areas of confusion, the advice is quite simple: watch how much fat, sugar and salt you are eating and eat lots of fruit and vegetables.

With over a quarter of people now obese, it’s clear that a lot of people are struggling to get the balance right.

Food glorious food

In our previous discussion on the Responsibility Deal, Pam told us:

‘The problem does not lie in food labelling, but in greed and laziness.’

There’s a big element of personal choice – and life would be pretty miserable if you couldn’t enjoy food. But our research shows that people think that the way food is produced, sold and marketed can make it too easy to eat unhealthily.

At Which?, we have focused a lot on labelling because the nutritional content of processed foods we buy or foods we order when eating out isn’t always obvious. There can be high levels of salt in foods even if it’s not always obvious from the taste, and the foods with the highest calorie content can often be counter-intuitive.

And the price of food is receiving a lot of attention here on Which? Conversation (and not just pasty-gate!). Commenter Celcat told us that it’s cheaper to eat ‘unhealthily’ than it is healthy.

Will food taxes deter?

Commenter Kate said that, although people should be made more accountable for their health, an unhealthy tax might deter manufacturers:

‘Food manufacturers should also be made responsible for creating food that is full of chemicals, sugar and saturated fat – perhaps a tax on these things might make them think twice about loading it into the food that they are producing.’

There’s been some success among manufacturers reducing salt levels in foods and a start has been made on reducing saturated fat. But do you think the government’s new ‘calorie reduction pledge’, launched last weekend, will make a difference to our diets? And will you be sampling the delights on the new reduced calorie product ranges?

There’s still a lot more the government and industry can do to help make it less of a struggle to find healthy, tasty choices that are affordable. Individual choice can only take us so far – and failure to get to the root causes of obesity has far wider implications for our health service, economy and society as a whole.

Who is responsible for tackling obesity?

We, the people (49%, 187 Votes)

All of the above (44%, 167 Votes)

Food manufacturers/sellers (4%, 15 Votes)

The government (3%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 379

Loading ... Loading ...

Several years ago, smoking was common place and accepted. Everyone knew it was bad for them, but it was fine to do it nonetheless. Nowadays it’s pretty much frowned upon.

The same attitude needs to happen towards alcohol and junk food etc. It’s going to take time for attitudes to change towards these things as well, but I think that eventually we’ll get there as a nation.

vanessa says:
31 May 2012

As far as diet is concerned I agree in part to all the comments on here. There are many people that can advise you on your diet. But there are not many that will educate you on what your body requires. you should be eating a balance of all the foods so eat a rainbow. If people need to lose weight and require education then the best form would be to find a club that can and do this. Not only educate but also give you a full body analysis as there is no such thing as one size fits all. Everybody is different and everybody requires differing amounts of protein, carbs, and fats in there diet. Men need to eat more than a women! It depends on the height and weight of the man and women. So I say find a club that can give you this information and learn what your indivitual body requires not what the general population needs


There are plenty of organisations wanting your money, vanessa. Beware of being sold nutritional supplements, since a decent diet will provide most people with all the vitamins and minerals they need. Undoubtedly we are all different, but most of us will be fine if we follow the dietary advice given by the NHS, which is free of charge.

Clubs can certainly provide support and motivation, but it’s up to you to decide if this is money well spent.

vanessa says:
31 May 2012

I would love to agree with you wavelengh on the vitamins and minerals in our food but I am afriad I dont as while looking up the depletion of vitamins in our foods I found out a few simple facts about how our food is grown ripened and stored and I was horrified to find that in some cases our fruit and veg could be months old. Since then I have been taking vitamins and other suppliments and the difference it has made to me has been amazing. Now if we all went back to growing our own vegtables we would not only be fitter by getting the exercise but also we would benifit from more vitamins and minerals in our foods. plus they taste so much better because of it.


I applaud you for running your own group, which I have now read in an earlier posting. I feared that you might be being exploited by others.

The fact that you feel better after taking supplements does not necessarily mean that taking the pills was the reason. I had chronic knee pain, paid a lot of money to see a private consultant and was told that I would need an exploratory operation when he came back from holiday. Several days later the pain disappeared. Had I been taking pills I could easily have attributed my recovery to them. There is also the well known placebo effect, where pills have an effect even though they contain no medicine, and this is the basis of homeopathy. For most people who are eating a decent diet, vitamin supplements are unnecessary. You will find this on the NHS website.

The vitamin content of food may change with storage but there is no scientific basis for the mineral content changing. If I thought I had a vitamin or mineral deficiency despite eating a healthy diet I would consult a GP, who can request appropriate tests and if necessary investigate the cause. Iron deficiency is fairly common and can cause anaemia in women, but this is best left to the experts to diagnose and treat.

Murphybear says:
25 June 2012

I Was diagnosed with Diabetes type 2 a few years ago. I was swamped with huge amounts of conflicting information. I followed the NHS guidelines for “healthy” eating but could not lose weight or stabilise my blood sugars. I then tried cutting out carbohydrate after following advice from one of the diabetes websites. 6-7 months later I had lost 4 stone and my blood sugars were within normal parameters. Moral here – find out what works for you, everyone is different. I found exercise difficult as I had major knee problems but I took up swimming and at first would struggle with one length of the pool. 6 months later I could do 40 in about an hour and a half.


My local Tesco has put a display of Krispy Kreme doughnuts near the entrance, in front of the fruit and vegetable shelves. Well done Tesco.