Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday, 10 October 2011

Lashings of SASS

We at the Tavern have no cause to love Professor Sir Nicholas Wald, purveyor of pills and potions to all regardless of casualties from side-effects; the needs of the many may outweigh the needs of the few but that's small consolation if you happen - through no fault of your own - to be one of the few.

And now he's back; according to the Sunday Times, he is proposing a 'SASS' tax - on Salt, Alcohol, Sugar and Saturated fat; anything the Danes can do, it seems, we can do better.

He believes that if manufacturers are compelled by taxes to take all the 'unhealthy' ingredients out of processed food, they will produce 'healthier' alternatives, thus working to prevent obesity.

It's not entirely clear what is to replace the SASS; perhaps he intends manufacturers to increase the use of artifical sweeteners such as aspartame. A minority of people would suffer unpleasant side-effects from the chemical but, as the Professor has amply demonstrated, that's fine as long as they aren't statistically significant.

What baffles me is why he thinks this would work. After all, taxes on cigarettes have been rising for years, yet the fag-and-pushchair combo is ubiquitous in what we are constantly told are seriously deprived areas. People eat SASS because they like the taste; put up the price and they'll grumble, but they'll still search out food they like.

It's the over-consumption of fast food, fizzy drinks and confectionery that has to be tackled if malnutrition is a problem - that and the lack of cooking skills among today's young adults. Insisting that manufacturers make taste-free diet versions of everything (the sort of food known in the Tavern as FOFF [F*** Off Fat Free]) will simply increase production costs so avoiding the tax will have no financial benefits.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why the Professor has stuck his oar in on this one; after all, he's planning to mass-medicate the lot of us with polypills anyway, whether we like it or not. As a Professor of medicine, tax is surely outside his remit - let alone deciding which of our small pleasures should be taxed beyond our reach; St Emilion? Vintage Cheddar? Sachertorte?

In any case, I'm not going to trust a man who's happy to write off a proportion of patients for what he considers the greater good.


  1. According to Cybil Shepherd, the four basic ingredients of a Southern-USA diet are salt, sugar, fat and alcohol, so I wonder whether this will catch on in Georgia.

  2. MW, I've read somewhere that the US has recently seen a huge increase in sales of deep-fried coca-cola or butter, which sounds like a valiant attempt to eliminate virtually everything that isn't SASS from the diet.

    Could we export Professor Wald to the US as a matter of urgency? Please?