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Letters: The food industry is making us sick

Taxing alcohol and tobacco to make them very expensive is one solution, but just as important is making healthy food choices cheaper

Image: Getty

Paul Mason is right that Labour should “prioritise wellbeing”. Intervention is desperately needed to incentivise healthy options and disincentivise unhealthy ones.

Taxing alcohol and tobacco to make them very expensive is one route, but just as important is making healthy food choices cheaper. The food lobby, which is stymying legislation, should be removed from having access to legislators – it is making people sick.

Tax ultra-processed foods, but also legislate to prevent them being available, except behind a barrier and in plain packaging with health warnings, like cigarettes. Freedom of choice is a bad idea here, and we as a nation cannot afford to poison our population like this.
Jane Reed

I applaud Paul Mason’s ideas, but am sad that he neglected to mention the Welsh government’s very relevant Well-being of Future Generations Act, which lays down a legislative foundation for such an approach, and has been hailed as a world first.

Legislation is not the whole answer. Money matters. But a legislative framework is something that can shape and connect sectoral approaches.
Sadly, this is an example of one perverse downside of devolution, namely that English journalists are increasingly shying away from exploring different approaches across the countries of the UK.
Geraint Talfan Davies
Cardiff, Wales

Having spent over 25 years in the disability advice sector, including dealing with Personal Independence Payments, I believe the system is out of control. The DWP generally makes very poor-quality decisions. The legislation is badly written. Many do not get what they are entitled to, but many get benefits they should not.

It is phenomenally easy to get PIP. All you need is a hearing aid or dentures. Claim to have a bit of a problem walking and a fear of going out on your own, and suddenly you can get the daily living and mobility components of Pip for years on end. You do not need to provide proper medical records in support.

It is even easier to get Pip using mental health – you can say you are in debt or have difficulty making friends. The highest out-of-work sickness benefit can be obtained by saying that at some time in the past you felt suicidal. Carers’ allowance is awarded to people who then also get Pip because they need help to do the same things they are said to be doing for someone else.

The DWP never obtains or uses medical records. Believe it or not, people lie and misrepresent their problems to get extra income via benefits. Sadly, it is all too common. A system that does not recognise this will be abused.
John Robertson

William Westgate opens his letter in TNE #386 by opining: “The bitter truth is that this nation is currently being overwhelmed by those claiming to have mental health issues.” His position is betrayed by his use of the words “overwhelmed” and “claiming”; words comparable to language used to describe the “trouble” with migrants. They’ll be sending benefit claimants to Rwanda next.

Mental health issues are increasing for very plausible reasons, such as improved capacity to recognise them and an extended period of quarantine imposed four years ago.

We were warned lockdown would have a huge mental health burden, and it did. We were told Brexit would torpedo our economy, and it did. But the government barrelled on anyway. Now the predicted consequences have materialised, and the government continues to try to belittle their effect to keep their base onside.
North Lincolnshire

Rail fails
Tom Chesshyre’s “Trouble on the tracks” would have been quite an eye-opener for many – especially those who carp about our own railways and commend those on the continent without using them. The best part of the French railways nowadays is the TGV’s marketing department: touring on the regional services is no fun at all.

Our own railways have much to offer: more routes and higher frequencies. How many other countries offer a 20-minute frequency between their biggest cities, as we do between London and Manchester?

Of course, there’s plenty to be done here, beyond the issue of renationalising. For example, every station could be displaying a map of the national network, so that waiting passengers can see what journeys are possible. I would write more, but I have a train to catch…
Andrew Rolph
Bradford on Avon

I also travelled around Europe last spring on an Interrail ticket. We firstly had to change our Eurostar to Paris – there were strikes over pension reforms, and then riots. Our first train in Germany had only half the requisite carriages – yep, it’s not just here.

The conversation on the train was all about how scheiße Deutsche Bahn was and two men nearly came to blows over who to blame. The Italians went on strike twice, lateness was usual and then the German strikes started.

The trip was, however, fabulous, and when the trains ran they were clean and speedy. Austrian, Swiss (obviously) and Czech trains were excellent. Oh, and by the way, despite my mutterings at the time, I supported the workers’ right to strike, honest!
Tim Riley

Guess what? The problems with Europe’s trains are largely to do with behind-the-scenes privatisation. The reason unions are striking is because they want a bigger slice of the pie before it’s too late and Europe’s trains are sold off completely.
Stephen Williams

The solution to Britain’s train crisis is surely three-pronged:

The state owns the track.

The state may well own the train operator, as well as a certain percentage of the rolling stock.

The state may well operate the trains; however, the state should also have to face, say every 20 years or so, commercial competition. However, even if a commercial operator wins the operational bid, the overall direction is state-led.
Em Jackson

Passport blues
Commiserations to Alastair Campbell on the passport control delays, which will only get worse later this year with the new biometric requirements, then the EU’s version of ESTA next year.

But I can tell you of ONE genuine “Brexit benefit” – it made my brother and I apply for Irish passports, which I’d been meaning to do for years.

Brexit finally made us do the fairly substantial paperwork involved. I’ve never had a happier day in my life than when my Irish citizenship was granted, and I became an EU citizen again after a two-year gap.

I now identify more as Irish than British – but have enormous respect for people like yourself who have never given up on Britain returning to the European family one day.
Dr Martin Treacy (Mairtin O’Treasaigh in Irish)

Re: Alastair Campbell on bagpipes. The best bagpipe joke was in the Fosters adin which Paul Hogan is at the Highland Games and says, “Nice people, the Scots”. He then sees someone playing the pipes and adds, “Cruel to their animals, though.”
Charles Wilson

Like minded
A propos Leitkultur, I read an interview with an American couple who retired to Portugal. They chose to settle in a small town because: “Many people moving to Portugal like to call themselves ‘expats’ and spend their time at ‘meetups’ where they can whine to other ‘expats’ about how no one in Portugal speaks English… and accuse the ‘natives’ of being impossible to get to know.

“This was not the life we wanted. We wanted to be immigrants, people moving to a new country to become a part of their culture and community.”
By that criterion, the Islamists of Hamburg and elsewhere are expats. And they are not the only ones: there are other groups who prefer to stay within their cultural ghettos.

But how to separate immigrants from expats at the point of entry? The asylum assessment process is opaque: does it take account of language and other skills, the willingness and ability to work? We don’t know. We should.
Jim Trimmer

Tutti frutti
I don’t know if Mikhail Bulgakov would have appreciated the title of Josh Barrie’s article on pizza but it brought a smile to my face at least.
John Stout Leigh
Greater Manchester

Jessica Lionnel’s article reminds me of the first time I visited Naples with a friend in the early 60s.

Both famished, we found a pizzeria and were given a menu listed according to price. At the bottom was one named “Pizza Lollobrigida”.

When asked what it was, the waiter raised his arms and replied emphatically, “con tutto!”.
Richard Clegg

Trust issues
I fear Mandrake is barking up the wrong tree in pursuing John Baron MP over his campaign to change the current cost reporting regime for investment trusts . The issue is a rather dry and technical one, but the current system forces investors to compare apples with oranges, with the perverse and unintended consequence that many trusts are starved of capital, not least most of the trusts investing in renewable energy.

Far from being “Brexity”, Baron’s is a broad-based campaign to address a simple anomaly, as the cross-party support for a recent private members’ bill in the Lords shows.

Perhaps Mr Baron would benefit personally; I don’t know. But it would be no more or less than any other investor in the trust sector, including the pension funds in which many TNE readers will have an interest.

Mr Baron has been writing about the subject in the Investors’ Chronicle for some months; hardly shady lobbying.
Dr Peter Webster

Inked in
Has TNE changed its printing ink? I noticed that my fingers seem to be smudged with ink after leafing through TNE. To prevent it, I now have my butler iron my copy beforehand. I suggest others do the same.
Richard Szmidt

The worm turns
Political satirists across the pond are dining out on the independent presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr’s admission that a parasitic worm ate part of his brain.

It occurs to me that in this we may find an explanation for Rishi Sunak’s refusal to put everyone out of our collective and extreme misery by calling the overdue general election.

Perhaps our tetchy PM has a bug in his bonce, a worm in his wiring?
Amanda Baker
Edinburgh, Scotland

Below the line

Comments, conversation and correspondence from our online subscribers

Re: Multicultural Man on hair. What we want and what we will get are two very different things, as Aunt Dahlia said to Bertie Wooster. But, if possible, I would like a cancer-free Will Self with a neatly trimmed Hippocratic wreath.

I so hope Patience Wheatcroft’s prediction in TNE #387 (“The Tories could be headed for extinction”) comes true. A party founded in 1834 with one purpose, the conservation of wealth, power and privilege in the hands of the few, has no place in the 21st century. They have become an anachronism. Good riddance I say.

As Neil Kinnock said about Brexit, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu”. Huge damage has been done to this country by the likes of Johnson and Cummings.

Jonty Bloom’s “Our imperfect dream” about Europe Day was an excellent article from one of my favourite writers. It’s just so depressing that it will be years before the UK can become part of the EU again, and my fellow musicians can hop on to Eurostar clutching an instrument and a passport.

Europe Day – May 9 – has a special significance for my wife and I. It was on May 9, 2017, that we rolled off the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to begin our new life in France. It’s not always been easy, but never a moment’s regret! Merci, la France; merci, l’Europe.

Re: Julia Hobsbawm’s “Death of the office”. Having worked freelance from home for over 13 years, I would not go back to traditional work patterns. I work when I need to, and the time of day can vary depending on my clients’ needs. It is the ultimate in flexible working. I suggest employers need to learn to adapt because in a competitive labour market, employers who offer a more flexible approach will increasingly have the edge.

Rather than Rio Lobo, as Bonnie Greer suggests, the film John Wayne made as a response to High Noon was actually Rio Bravo, directed by the great Howard Hawks.

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