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Minister for Health Leo Varadkar

A sugar tax in today’s budget?

Fat chance.

A Food Critic writes:

When a right-wing Minister for Health calls for a sugar tax to combat childhood obesity, he deserves applause. How wise it was for Leo Varadkar to announce his support for such a tax last week. After all, a quarter of Irish three-year-olds are now overweight or obese. We are talking about the greatest public health crisis in the history of the state.

The only problem is that Leo Varadkar doesn’t want a sugar tax. He regards such taxes with contempt. The Minister revealed his true colours in the Sunday Independent on August 23rd, when he boasted that his favourite thing about Ireland is “our unique culinary delights like red lemonade and Tayto crisps.”

When a politician boasts about his love of sugared water in the middle of an obesity crisis, it seems a bit irresponsible. When he is also a qualified doctor it seems bizarre. But when that same politician is also the nation’s Minister for Health, our kids don’t stand a chance.

If a sugar tax is introduced in today’s budget, the government should be heartily congratulated. If a sugar tax is not introduced, will the Minister for Health apologise for pretending to give a sh*t about Irish kids?

FIGHT!

(Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie)

115 thoughts on “One Lump Or Two?

  1. TomCo

    Oh fupp off. Parents need to take responsibility here not government.
    Why should I be taxed more because some of some ignorant family’s fat brat?

    1. classter

      You are taxed more irrespective.

      If a lot of people live an unhealthy lifestyle, you will pay more in taxes for the health system which picks up the pieces.

      Prevention is typically more efficient than cure.

        1. On The Buses

          Yes, government intervention is needed to stop obesity.

          Believe it are not, you are not a free thinking free moving individual. We are part of a society.

          There is a very clear correlation to obesity crisis in America and Governmental involvement in subsidizing the farming industry.

          I hope this is nipped in the bud here.

  2. SunshineB

    Junk food should be taxed higher and this tax used to offset that which is taxed on healthier foods. It’s far too expensive to eat well in this country and no wonder we have such a problem when crappy convenience foods are all a lot of people can afford. Yes it’s up to the parents but the government could make a bit of an effort to help them along.

    1. Prop Joe

      Could not agree more.

      Raw Veg, Fruit, and meat is not expensive. Nor are eggs, milk and porridge oats.

      It is VERY easy to eat healthy, and very affordable. It takes more effort than whacking something in the microwave for three minutes or ringing dominos, but that is the fault of the parents.
      If you work long days, prepare weeks meals in advance. Your child should never be eating so unhealthily that it is damaging their wellbeing and health. That is disgusting. Shameful.

      1. Prop Joe

        Ehm I wasn’t agreeing with this person, I was agreeing with the guy above who said it’s parents responsibility.

      2. Junkface

        Junk food is actually far cheaper than healthy food like fruit and veg in Ireland. That’s why the less wealthy are eating it more, as well as being too tired or lazy to cook. I’m always shocked when I go abroad at how cheap their healthy foods are. We are ripped off by comparison. No surprises there.

        They should introduce a sugar/junkfood tax. A lot of families in poor areas of the Dublin city actually eat everyday in the chipper! I saw this repeatedly when I used to live in an apartment in town. I was shocked

        1. Dog Gone. IT

          That simply isn’t true, except perhaps in Dublin city centre and southside, even then there are street vendors, Smithfield discounters etc if you could be bothered getting off your lazy bottom, or can you even fit your range rover down Little Mary Street?

          You clearly don’t shop at farmers markets or peruse the budget price sections.

        2. Cup of tea anyone

          How is junk food cheaper. maybe if you buy all your food in organic markets. In tesco you have
          3 Chicken Fillet €3
          1 pepper 49c
          1 onion 49c
          400g Pasta 50c
          Cheese Qtr block 50c

          and if you have some soy sauce and a selection of herbs and spices. I didnt included price for them because they are under a euro and last forever. you have a healthy tasty meal.

          So what junk food can you get for €5 to feed 3 people?

          1. Pip

            Abolute sound thinking.
            I was just thinking…. Mac meals for four – say 28 euro.
            Five different meats for four – say 20 euro if bought carefully
            Five veg, likewise – 3 euro.
            Five carbs – say 4 euro.
            Five waters, or even a bottle of squash – 1 euro
            The total speaks for itself – and I don’t mean a Mac meal isn’t very tasty!

          2. Disasta

            So muck antibiotic riddled chicken fillets, pepper hydroponically grown, cheap poo cheddar and how is pasta in any way healthy?

          3. ReproBertie

            Pasta is a low-sodium, low-cholesterol, fibre-providing, nutrient-enriched complex carbohydrate. How is it not healthy?

          4. fluffybiscuits

            @cup of tea

            2 chicken fillets are three quid in Tesco

            That is a decent effort but the brown pasta is better and why add cheese when there is already enough fats in the chicken (which is a lean white meat). The most nutirious way would be to add more veg like broccoli etc.

          5. Cup of tea anyone

            @ Disasta well relative to any fast food or cheap ready meals that are full of sugar and salt, I don’t see how you could think it would be worse?

            I would always recommend getting meat from a local butcher, and veg from the local fruit and veg place. But Veg from Tesco would be a great start.

          6. Cup of tea anyone

            @ Fluffy
            with the chicken I get 10 for a tenner at the butcher. sorry I didn’t know the price but assumes you could get it for something similar. and I was just going with the basics. and I like cheese. But Broccoli is nice either.

          7. Disasta

            @Cup of tea anyone – Fair point. Standard cheap chicken is a poor meat, I avoid it where possible. Although for a cheap thrill I’d occasionally but those 20 chicken wing packs, marinade and BBQ them. Delish.

            I never eat pasta because there’s nothing good in it. Just a filler to bulk a meal. I get all the fibre I need from fruit veg and nuts.

      1. Prop Joe

        Exactly, lazy parents create tub’o’lard kids

        The amount of times I see someone giving their kids a packet of crisps to shut them up is scandalous. And we aren’t talking ten year olds, we are talking about toddlers who would just as easily quieten down if the parents gave them a piece of fruit, or paid attention to them

        1. Cup of tea anyone

          On a slightly related not, I give my dog veg as a treat. he goes mad for a carrot or pepper, maybe a Brussel sprouts. I have seen her bark at the veg basket for some asparagus. He hates lettuce and loves cabbage leaves. I give them as a treat and so they are a treat. I would imagine it works the same with kids.

          1. Cup of tea anyone

            Well not all kids but it depends on how you food is portrayed. If the child is brought up getting fruit for good behavior then fruit will always be a reward. and if they want something tasty and they know there are no crisps, or treats in the house then they will be happy with fruit. (as long as they don’t know about the chocolate you have stored away for after they go to bed)

            I don’t think it will work on all kids but It should work on some.

          2. Neilo

            If I fed my dogs veg, they’d lie in wait until I dozed on the sofa before leaving a little present in my velveteen slippers.

    2. joj

      fruit and veg are cheaper than convience foods, I could do you a stew for 4 people for €8, with meat. most of those prepack meals cost €5 each, a mcdonalds meal costs at least €7

      But I suppose you belief anti science nonsense and only buy holistic veg in your ‘health’ stores, then you and your money deserve to be parted

      1. The Old Boy

        This is true, but there’s an hour’s work and and two hours of cooking with an £8 stew. The issue is one of convenience rather than cost. You can argue the toss whether it’s the many pressures on hard-working families or just lazy parents.

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          You also need to include the cost of cooking, that can really stop a lot of people from cooking food any longer than say, 20 minutes. At least in the UK that is an issue for some families. There’s no way some would be able to leave a stew on for 2 hours when its a choice of gas for the cooker or heating a room for example.

          1. joj

            Lol, you should really learn a small bit of physics, heating a sealed metre 2sq space uses very little energy for 2 hours, compared to heating even a small room, almost negligible on the cost of the actual materials used.

          2. Dόn Pídgéόní

            Joj – those are some of the stories I have read from reports on this. Poo-poo it all you want but I don’t really care if you believe them or not tbh.

          3. Dόn Pídgéόní

            @ Cup – and sleep in the kitchen, so cosy! Though once I did live in the coldest flat in the world and I seriously contemplated doing this one winter.

          4. Cup of tea anyone

            @ Don Going by some of the apartments on daft it doesn’t look like many have a coice with that.
            also it would be nice to be close to the fridge for a midnight snack.

        2. Dog Gone. IT

          Two hours? Are you joking me? you can prepare the ingredients for stew in about five minutes, unless of course you want to make your own bouillon beforehand

          After that there’s no cooking involved, just time and low heat

          1. The Old Boy

            I am no kitchen whiz, I grant you, but I don’t get much change from an hour between the prep and clean-up for a decent stew. Probably because lambs’ hearts (try them, delicious and cheap) take a bit of dissection. The cooking time is a real issue though. If you arrive in from work at six and have to get dinner for the children, you simply won’t have the time. Again, you can point to laziness in the lack of pre-preparation if you wish.

          2. Prop Joe

            Old Boy – A stew can be prepared at the weekend and frozen.
            I do this simply because I like a good stew when I come in from work.

  3. Tony Stanza

    In entirely unrelated news, anything in the SocDems pre-budget submission this week along the same lines? Anything that might need to be floated under a pseudonym for credibility?

      1. Pip

        Exactly – only the other day I read a piece about how much easier it was back when ‘meat was cheap’.
        Hello?! Surely it’s far cheaper now – relatively – than ever, like a lot of things.
        Ever tried to buy at tv at 1970s prices….?

        1. Conor

          The Ma is always astounded at the price and general massive amounts of chicken available these days.
          When she was growing up chicken wasn’t a rarity but it wasn’t exactly on the dinner table ever week, but now it’s so ubiquitous and cheap. (yes I know, factory battery chickens etc etc etc but whatever)

  4. Vote Rep #1

    So somebody who likes red lemonade and crisps can in no way be in favour or a sugar tax? What sort of mental logic is that? Do people who are in favour or a sugar tax hate everything and anything that contains sugar?

    1. classter

      Yup, it is a stupid argument.

      A policy based on the pretence that we are not human & that we will never, ever indulge in ‘unhealthy food’ is destined for failure.

  5. _d_a_n_

    Well this is complete nonsense. He announced he is in favour of the tax. You’re basing your position that he’s not really in favour of it because he said he like crisps and red lemonade the other week and your obvious dislike for his political beliefs. And the jump that he’s ‘pretending to give a sh*t about Irish kids’ is moronic.

    While assuming you understand Varadkar’s ideological position, and using that to criticize an announcement you actually agree with, you’re revealing how much your own ideological position clouds your ability for analysis.

    Do you not think you’re jumping the proverbial gun at least twice in the above statement?

  6. well, tat's that

    What a load of horse poo. The weak reference to red lemonade and taytos is bizarre. Just because he’s a doctor he should not talk at all about any sort of unhealthy lifestyles? That’d like a priest not talking about sex or sexual habits since his ‘career’ says it’s not for him.

    you don;t also have to practice what you preach. Stop trying to tax, educate the ignorance anyway first. Parent’s responsibilities, not the government.

    1. classter

      The problem is not ignorance that sugar is unhealthy.

      Other factors – prevalence & economy of sugary, processed food, long working hours, both parents working, apathy, low self-esteem, poor cooking skills, etc. – seem likely to be more important. The hope is that the tax will provide a disincentive to junk food and an incentive to individuals & food companies alike to explore other options.

      You might think of it as a middle balance between nanny state (sugary food banned, govt puts limits on sugar content of certain food types) and laissez-faire.

      1. Lan

        Probably the best most balanced summation of the issue in this comment section.

        Dependence on high sugar and highly processes food isn’t a simple they’re cheaper idea, it’s also cos of time poverty, psycological effect (low self esteem) and also not even being able to cook, an amazingly common thing amongst both genders.

        Lots needs to be done, sugar tax is just one but it makes sense to start

          1. Pip

            Well said both.
            And we’re all up agin the sea of lifestyle advertising that makes box sets of food, delivered, out to be the greatest thing since… well, you know. Savoury pizza for mains, sweet pizza for dessert, even.

  7. Woof

    Best way of cutting out sugar is to put water fountains – free! – in corridors and playgrounds of schools.

  8. Medium Sized C

    Apart from the all over the shop logic from this person, there is one thing that continually rankles the hell out of me from these arguments and it is this:

    Nobody takes their lead in terms of their dietary choices from the minister for health.
    The nations children don’t check to see what Leo Varadkar eats.
    The nations parents never OK’d their kids diets with Jim O’Reilly.
    Nobody ever checked with Mary Harney if cream soda was alright to drink.

  9. Bubbles

    People who like an occasional brandy are not alcoholics. People who go camping when the weather allows it are not social dropouts. People who enjoy the odd indulgence in snacks and sugary beverages are not pro-obesity.

    People who write from a logic-void and expect to be taken seriously are idiots though.

  10. scottser

    eamon farrell, you are a bell end. stop being outraged by things of no importance. besides, a sugar tax isn’t going to affect obesity levels, but it will generate a nice few quid for the bondholders. instead of fat rich kids, we’ll have fat poor kids.

    1. Dόn Pídgéόní

      Tbf, most obesity is concentrated in lower socio-economic groups, generally around availability and price of healthier options as well as options or knowledge to then turn those into a meal. Easy to say just cook healthy, harder to do if you don’t actually own a cooker.

      *waits patiently*

      1. Vote Rep #1

        Who doesn’t own a cooker? I would imagine that the amount of homes without a working cooker is tiny.

        1. Dόn Pídgéόní

          I’m not sure about Ireland but I know its certainly an issue for some families in the UK. If you’re on a low income and your cooker breaks, not everyone can afford to replace that so easily. These are things that really need to be thought about as well instead of throwing out the old “they’re lazy” thing.

          PS Thanks BS!!

  11. doncolleone

    Dunno maybe parents should not allow kids to eat junk food? It works in Germany, parental responsibility and leading by example. Where else in the world would crisps, snack boxes, chips and take aways seen as acceptable substitutes for a meal? Low self esteem and low expectations need to be addressed to move on.

  12. ahjayzis

    Will condemning Red Lemonade and all it stands for reduce obesity?

    No. To my knowledge they haven’t quadrupled it’s sugar content since I was a lad, older generations weren’t obese from it – why? Because we had it at birthday parties and Christmas – not every night with dinner. He should condemn sh1t nutrition by parents for what it is – child abuse, the Lemonade isn’t the problem, they are.

  13. fluffybiscuits

    Frankly Im all for the sugar tax. I’ll tell you why.

    Six weeks ago I was diagnosed Type 2 diabetic and its not easy . Changing how I eat and re-educating myself.

    The main point is that sugary foods tend to be cheap and bulkier but if the prices of these were to raised and perhaps some of it used to subsidise healthier alternatives it would encourage a lot more people to eat healthier.

    There is a chance mine can be reversed but for others well…

    1. Dog Gone. IT

      why should my food preferences (and accordingly costs) be influenced by you and your ilk’s failure to control your poor eating habits?

      1. fluffybiscuits

        That is a legit question and I agree but its more to do with the policy of how food stuff works. THe cheaper sugary stuff tends to be a lot cheaper. If you go to Iceland/Aldi/Lidl you can pick up a frozen pizza for a euro or 1.50. This is significantly cheaper than buying veg (which cannot be too bad in some cases) and then chicken, making a healthy sauce and rice and then putting the effort in to cook it. My average income is not more than minimum wage thus I tended to shop on a budget and things like white rice, pizzas etc where significantly cheaper.

        Im not going to take offence by what you say as I reckon your poor choice of language means you have not really taught through what you said

        Big hugs <3

        1. Dog Gone. IT

          thanks for your reply which was a lot more gentlemanly than I deserved (probably ;)

          however I simply don’t agree

          I was out of work and back at school myself for a few years there and lived on a low income
          I actually managed to have a healthier diet than I do now when I’m working full time and commuting several hours a day. I simply had to learn how to cook better and use more good value ingredients. Being time poor however is a constraint I’ll grant you that. the question is would you rather have diabetes than take the effort to learn good diet?

          1. ahjayzis

            Kids don’t have that choice though Dog. Gone.

            People who make poor food choice are inflicting the damage on their children, who by the time they come to the age where they can cook / know what to cook to eat healthily the damage may have been done.

            We’ll pay either way, in higher taxes on treats or massive health tax and insurance hikes for diabetic teens and tweens.

            We do have a kid-gloves attitude to parents abusing their kids nutritionally though, they need to come off stat. An obesity diagnosis should have the public health nurse and social worker calling to the front door.

          2. Cup of tea anyone

            I agree that having an obese child should be a form of child abuse. It is one thing to eat cheap past food because of your personal circumstance. But if you have enough fast food to make a child obese then you are definitely doing it wrong.

          3. fluffybiscuits

            @Dog Gone

            It took a diabetes diagnosis to get me to learn how to have a healthy diet. The weekend I was away , had a few drinks and low and behold I had a pizza, have a pizza straight away weight went on few days later. I have to even think about how I treat myself. Id be interested in your thoughts on how you fed yourself on a budget and it was healthy, I might learn something from it! Time constraints is a thing that is constantly mentioned here regarding cooking. Two options – cook in bulk and freeze or know a quick dish that helps!

            PS Frozen veg is a saviour!

          4. Cup of tea anyone

            Not dog but my advice is to stock up on things like chilli powder, rosemary, thyme, basil and soy and worchester sauce. In tesco they start at 69 cent so buy them over a few weeks, They really last forever and for a meal all you need is pasta, chicken and some of that frozen vedge and you have a nice meal. Same goes for some rice, mince and a can of tomatoes. Learn to enjoy and experiment with it. It can be a hobby.
            Also buy your meat from a butcher if you can. Some do great deals like 10 fillets for a tenner.

        2. scottser

          fluff – my gift to you: scottser’s chicken fried rice as loved by his diabetic cousin:
          fry up your chicken in garlic, ginger and worcester sauce
          in a separate pan scramble up an egg, lash in your already cooked brown rice and add soya sauce and 5 spice. add in few chopped spring onions, peas and sweetcorn and you’re good to go.
          it’s even better next day, so make a bit too much and you’re sorted for lunch :)

        1. Dog Gone. IT

          true, you can do it

          it’s not easy and I’ve done it myself and need to again a bit more

          but rather than see it as a huge goal try to see it as a number of small goals

          1. fluffybiscuits

            Started walking thirty minutes a day x 4 days a week

            Counting carbs

            Thats it

            Eg I eat 200g of carb a day – this usually is two weetabix with linseed, salad with wholemeal brown bread or some pasta with roasted veg and coleslaw and then in evening brown rice/brown pasta/Sweet potatoes or some other carbs. If I count them it makes it easier.

            Im also on metaformin which is to control insulin

  14. GiGi

    Leo buys large bags of Kettle chips in Donnybrook Fair. I saw him buy them the day of the budget a few years back. Funny timing of this post today. Is it Throwback Tuesday?

  15. Spaghetti Hoop

    This is absurd.
    YES to the Department of Health educating and informing on healthy eating & cooking…..
    ….but taxing foodstuff because of its content???!
    As if the family who send their podgy kids to get the dinner from the chipper are going to heed a tax.
    This is so Fine Gael.

    1. classter

      ‘taxing foodstuff because of its content’
      How is that any different than taxing cigarettes?
      Or taxing liquids because of their respective contents – alcohol, petrol?

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        Well, food is required for our basic survival, sugar and fat included. What I don’t understand is how can you tax an item based on the amount of sugars within it – and expect that if a person is to incur an obesity-related illness that they’ve paid for their health care via the bit of tax they paid on a Twix. It’s nanny statism and tokenism all rolled up.

  16. ahjayzis

    I’m slightly leaning towards supporting this kind of thing – but I think it’d be fairer and a far better idea to CUT the price of fruit veg and especially fresh meat first, or even in tandem.

    I’m in London, I imagine it’s the same in Dublin, but I started with a trainer a few weeks ago and have a mega-healthy nutrition plan to follow – it’s pretty much just fruit, tonnes of veg and lots of meat and it’s COSTING ME AN ABSOLUTE FORTUNE to cook three-four meals a day, and that’s for one person. Eating crap was far, far cheaper, so I can see how people feel they’ve no choice. But raising the price of one is just cruel on the low-paid, it doesn’t actually solve their problem.

    1. Disasta

      When I was hitting the Olympic lifting hard food cost me 100 euro a week. No sugars/starches, no packets with ingredients. Now I’m cooking for 2 and doing less its costing maybe 130-140 for 2 of us. Same though, no packets, no sugars/starches.

    2. classter

      Do you shop in the local grocers in London?

      I found the supermarkets over there were quite expensive for fruit & veg (and poor quality too) but a lot of the local veg shops were dirt-cheap.

    3. Dόn Pídgéόní

      Try the fruit and veg shops rather than the supermarkets, they will have stuff for much cheaper, especially if its in season, and you won’t have to buy 25 onions if you only need one. And not like the corner shops, proper fruit and veg places. Try up near Green Lanes or somewhere, the Turkish fellas up there will have good stuff for not very much.

    4. ahjayzis

      Yeah I think I’m gonna hit up Smithfield on Sunday monring or something, the supermarkets are murdering me on spinach!

      A bit of butcher shopping too, I think.

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