The head of a food watchdog in Britain has been ridiculed for suggesting that workers bringing cake into the office is as harmful to the nation’s health as passive smoking.
Professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said that she only eats cake during the day because colleagues give her the opportunity to do so. She then called on office workers to refrain from the practice to help the fight against obesity.
“If nobody brought cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day, but because people do bring cakes in, I eat them,” she told The Times newspaper. “Now, OK, I have made a choice, but people were making a choice to go into a smoky pub.
“With smoking, after a very long time, we have got to a place where we understand that individuals have to make some effort but that we can make their efforts more successful by having a supportive environment.
“We still don’t feel like that about food,” she added.
The FSA oversees food safety and food hygiene in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It describes its main statutory objective as protecting public health.
The food tsar’s comments, however, were dismissed by politicians and medical professionals alike who refuted the comparison with passive smoking and suggested individuals simply need to utilize their own willpower.
During the government’s Wednesday media briefing, in which complimentary cake was reportedly available, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson insisted there was “nothing to stop” co-workers from bringing treats to the office on occasion, adding: “The PM believes personal choice should be baked into our approach.” He confirmed the government would not be accepting any recommendation to prevent office workers from bringing treats to work.
A spokesperson for opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer added that the Labour leader is a fan of cake “in moderation.”
Speaking to the BBC, GP Dr. Helen Wall called upon individuals to take responsibility for their own health.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to have a little bit of willpower, don’t you? If somebody’s smoking next to you, you can’t help but inhale that.
“If someone’s got a cake next to you, you don’t have to eat it, do you?” she asked.
“This is just ludicrous,” added Mark Littlewood, director general of the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). “I hope there isn’t a single penny of taxpayers’ money being spent on this utter nonsense.”