Hammers, sugar and Jamie Oliver

JO taxesThere goes Jamie Oliver again, mouthing off where he has no business, and upsetting the Twitterati:

JO tweetAnd although I briefly jumped on that bandwagon, I’m going to go out on a limb here and defend him for once. Or rather, to try to shift the focus. Because so what if he thinks sugar should be taxed? People much more qualified than Jamie Oliver have already pointed out that the idea of sin taxes is simplistic, unrealistic, and largely ineffective. So until we actually see indications of policy decisions based on the ramblings of a celebrity chef (which yes, has indeed happened in the past), then let him say what he likes.

Surely more worrying is the continuing trend of vilifying sugar and all things processed in an attempt to blame Big Ag for obesity. Yes, of course the policies and industries that made it possible to flog massive amounts of “empty” calories for minimal cash have made it easier for people to consume more than they need. But that doesn’t mean that Coke has made “us” fat.

Neither, surely, can obesity be blamed on supermarkets, or on the fact that the calorie content of “junk food” apparently hasn’t changed very much in the last couple of decades  – not to mention that whatever gourmet burger the hipsters in your hood are eating probably has twice as many calories as a Big Mac. But even if we are counting calories, we’re evidently doing it wrong (pro-tip: the stale leftover slice of pizza will deliver less calories than the fresh hot slice, because science. So skip dinner and eat your leftovers).

Dan Savage likes to use the analogy of tools and a house to explain… other stuff. It goes something like if someone builds a house for themselves, then we generally don’t praise the tools they used for building the house (assuming it’s a nice house in the end). We give credit to the person who built a house with their “bare hands”.

Now flip that around to food and obesity, and you have a bunch of “tools” – sugar! burgers! political conspiracies! bread! Nigella Lawson! – which make it really easy to get fat. But until genetic engineering starts producing some really cool stuff like pizza slices that spontaneously attack our faces, then someone still actually needs to hit the nail on the head.