Wednesday, 4 March 2009

FSA thinks we're all *really* stupid

There are some new posters up around Whitechapel to encourage healthy eating - not sure if they're made by the FSA or by the local council. Anyway they have some really excellent health tips on them. So far I've seen:

Eating less pastry can help reduce your saturate fat intake.


Mildly patronising, but I suppose possibly useful for people who might not know that pastry is high in saturated fats.

Swapping olive or vegetable oil for butter in cooking could help reduce your saturated fat intake.


Well... ok, if I don't cook with saturated fat as much then I won't get as much saturated fat in my diet. Again, I suppose this could theoretically be useful for people who didn't realise that vegetable oils are healthier than butter (which people these would be, exactly, I wouldn't like to say).

Simply eating healthier snacks can help reduce your saturated fat intake.


Now we're getting really patronising. Since in order for this to make sense healthier can only be defined as "containing less saturated fat", this is almost tautologous, and surely not actually new information for anyone. In fact, after seeing this sign, I suggested (in jest) to my friend that they should just put up a sign which said "eating less saturated fat could reduce your saturated fat intake."... which leads us onto the latest one I've seen:

Just reading labels and choosing options which are lower in saturates could help lower your saturated fat intake.


Yes, seriously, someone thought it was a good idea to put that on a poster. Once again, to paraphrase, because I can't imagine anyone stupid enough that this poster would actually benefit them: "eating less saturated fat could help reduce your saturated fat intake". Is it possible that there's someone out there in the world who is intelligent enough to read a poster multisyllabic words like "saturated" and not intelligent enough to realise that if they want to reduce their saturated fat intake they should eat less saturated fat? I think I've probably repeated myself too much in this final paragraph, but I just can't get over the inanity of this poster campaign - seriously, how stupid does the FSA think we are?

Of course, all this is assuming that reducing saturated fat intake is a good thing, which I am led to believe is far from proven. I'm not an expert, I don't claim Rob Grant is an expert, and I'm not about to claim that the FSA is definitely wrong, but there are certainly well-qualified people out there who are not convinced that a diet high in saturated fats actually does increase blood cholesterol levels (or that this would necessarily be a bad thing if it did). Why doesn't the FSA spend money researching this instead of placing highly irritating and patronising posters on the Tube?

1 comment:

Michael said...

You'd be surprised. It's very easy to project your own level of intelligence onto the general population, but really, a lot of people lead very intellectually simple lives.

I have to say I approve of this campaign. It's promoting the idea that eating healthily is simple, inexpensive and doesn't mean sacrificing taste. Furthermore it rightly undermines needlessly complicated (and expensive) dieting regimes, including those that encourage people to buy expensive and pointless supplement pills.

These messages are not intended to be groundbreaking news. Just simple reminders. If you're already following their advice then you don't need to change your habits. But there are an awful lot of people whose eating habits are poor, and who see eating fresh fruit and vegetables as an over-complicated, expensive activity, a luxury for the upper/middle classes. That's who these messages are for. I'm sorry that you feel personally offended by them.

This is a useful reference: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/330/7493/683