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

Friday 10 January 2014

Step away from the sherbet!

"I don't want my children exposed to these traders."
It's the oft-repeated protest of a concerned parent, though the subject in this case might come as a surprise to those of us old enough to remember the school tuckshop.
With obesity rates among children soaring, sweet-sellers outside schools have been labelled irresponsible. 
Nottingham City Council is considering banning them from streets around three schools.
It appears that some enterprising chaps have taken to turning up outside schools with vans selling sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks, which has stirred up a hornets' nest of healthy eating issues, road safety and discipline. According to one parent:
"My children also say they have heard that some students are often late to classes, as the trader will always stay until the last student is there."
That one, at least, is in the school's court, always assuming that The Powers That Be have left staff with sufficient disciplinary sanctions to deal with persistent willful lateness. The Daily Mail, meanwhile, has gleefully seized on the story and found itself a suitably emotive quote from another parent:
"To me, it’s no different than a drug dealer peddling drugs to addicts."
It is highly opportune that this story should turn up at the same time as a mass media condemnation of sugar consumption - a phenomenon tackled with panache by Leg-Iron and passion by Longrider. It's difficult to tell, amid the feeding frenzy of diet advice, 'expert' opinion and fake charity opportunism, exactly who is jumping on whose bandwaggon, but the issue has produced a startling degree of unanimity in the chorus of disapproval.

And it may be a deduction too far, but is it really a coincidence that this onslaught has coincided with media focus on the West Indian slave trade and the ill-gotten economic benefits derived by Britain from the resulting sugar industry, along with a demand that both should feature in the school curriculum?

Today's schoolchildren will be bombarded with anti-sugar slogans and carefully-designed PSHE programmes to demonstrate the risks - look how well it's worked with drugs! - and an army of state-funded busybodies will doubtless swing into action writing stern health warnings to accompany 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and 'Mary Poppins'.

Just as the Temperance movement indulged in flights of hyperbole in its portrayal of the 'demon' drink, the Righteous are rushing to attribute a plethora of ills past and present to the consumption of a legal substance which most of the population manages to use without ill effects. There is more than a a whiff of religious fervour in what is clearly seen by its proponents as a moral crusade.

Under the circumstances, I suppose it's hardly surprising that selling sweets to children has produced such a dramatic overreaction.


  1. Never give a sucker an even break? Apart from that there was a time when sugar was relatively rather more expensive in real terms so it was more of an extra and a treat rather than a staple of diet.

  2. Thanks, Julia!

    Demetrius: interestingly, in the context of struggling to get by on benefits, someone on the radio only this morning gave this example of hardship; "When you don't have enough money for toilet paper and sugar, so you have to choose which one to buy."

  3. JH, that is clearly the answer to the question, 'What is the opposite of a comment?'


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