Scotland’s war on snacking
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has just launched what could be the worst healthy-eating campaign of all time.
It consists of two TV adverts featuring a smiling parent encouraging their child to reveal something to the camera. After the child gives them a shy look, a chocolate biscuit, or some other snack, is given to them as a bribe. The parent then coaxes the young child into confessing what exaggerated health problems they’ll suffer from in the future as a result of their snacking.
The adverts are so creepy that, after just 24 hours, FSS pulled one from circulation and issued an apology on its Facebook page.
Here is an excerpt from the remaining advert:
Father: Go on son, tell them…
Son: [Shakes head reluctantly, before being given a biscuit] When I’m older, playing football will be hard because of my weight and I’ll probably struggle for breath just walking to the shops.
Father: [Smiling encouragingly] And…
Son: And there’s more chance I’ll have a heart attack.
Father: Well done son. [Passes plate of biscuits over as a reward.]
The removed advert, featuring a mother and daughter, was just as shocking, with the little girl warning the camera about her impending diabetes, before adding: ‘When I’m older, being overweight will affect my confidence.’
Comments on FSS’s Facebook page suggest the public is pretty bemused by these ads. One said: ‘How about a more positive campaign aimed at balance? Children do not die from heart attacks if they eat a cookie; we should teach them that sometimes it’s okay to snack, but to balance this with other food choices, too.’
In aiming to make Scottish parents feel guilty about feeding their kids treats, the FSS campaign is another patronising assault on parental freedom. Rather than providing simple health information, or, better still, trusting parents to look after their children as they see fit, FSS wants to demonise parents. The suggestion of these videos is that Scottish families are incapable of feeding their kids without guidance.
There’s a difference between impartial information about healthy lifestyles and telling parents what they can or can’t feed their children. It’s not the government’s place to tell parents how to raise their kids. What’s more, children should be free to enjoy snacks from time to time – they’re children for crying out loud. Kids are meant to be happy and carefree, not counting the calories at teatime.
Alec Fullerton is a writer and a student at the University of Oxford.