Anna Soubry, Britain‘s outspoken health minister, has recently claimed that coffee shops, such as Starbucks, are responsible for Britain’s child obesity crisis. She claims that coffee shops tempt the younger generation with sweetened coffee drenched in cream and chocolate and follow it up with a muffin. Her concern is that young people simply do not know how many calories they are consuming because the calorie counts are not listed on the walls within the shops.
Soubry has also recently pointed her finger at parents in general – stating that children are no longer taught not to eat between meals. She states that snacking was not something that existed during her upbringing, and that her parents always insisted she only eat at meal times. Currently, almost a third of children in Britain are over weight or obese, thus putting their health at risk.
This is not the first public firing the health minister has made, as just days before she claimed that the Prime Minister only gave her the position because she was a woman. She states that the position is seen as a “soft girly job” and that the Prime Minister saw fit to “give it to the girl again”.
Among other things, Soubry has also recently called for bakeries to reduce the size of their croissants and pastries, deeming them too large, and for grocery stores and restaurants to reduce their portion sizes served.
Soubry states on the matter ‘Let us talk about something that did not exist when I was young—the concept of snacking. I was positively told not to eat between meals. If we now look in the real world at how young people live and at what they feel is acceptable, it includes going into the many coffee shops that exist. I have no problem with coffee shops, but young people go in and have a large coffee—not a small one—which has syrup in it. It might have marshmallows on top, and then perhaps another little dollop of cream, because it is just a snack, a treat or elevenses. “And by the way”, they say, “I think I’ll have one of those very nice muffins.” They do not know how many calories that is.’
She continues ‘Many of us who see children who are overweight or obese are upset and concerned about that, because we know that many of those children will not only suffer from health issues, but will be bullied. Many of them are unhappy that they cannot, as they perceive it, join in the sport or physical activity enjoyed by their friends. There is a real human cost to overweightness and obesity.’
The health minister has also declared in the past that it is possible to tell poorer children from more well off children, as she thinks poorer children tend to be fatter. ‘I do not know why, but we cannot use the word “poor” anymore. By year six, 24.3 per cent of overweight and obese children are from the most deprived backgrounds, compared with 13.7 per cent from the least deprived backgrounds. I hope that those facts speak loudly, and I also hope that everybody takes this away: the reason why I feel this way with such a passion is that if someone comes from a poor, deprived background, they have enough problems as a child, and enough bad things going against them to prevent them from having a great start in life, without the burden of being overweight or obese.’
Soubry has a history of stirring up controversy. Soon after taking up office, she angered many by supporting the legislation of assisted dying.