TCS Daily

An Evil Invasion!

By Scott Norvell - October 8, 2003 12:00 AM

LONDON -- "Devilish," screamed the headline in the Daily Telegraph. A "serious threat." A "stealthy" "blitz" on the United Kingdom that could lead to millions of deaths. An "evil" "invasion."


Are the English papers alarmed about terrorism? Drug dealers? Anti-globalization protestors? Nope. They are worked up about doughnuts. Krispy Kreme doughnuts, to be precise.


American cult phenomenon Krispy Kreme has come to Britain, and the nutrition nannies are beside themselves. The high-fat, high-calorie confections represent "a serious threat to the growing British waistline," wrote the Telegraph. They cause diabetes and hardened arteries. One writer even suggested that higher blood sugar levels will make for a crankier United Kingdom.


To these doomsayers, ordinary Britons will be spellbound by the siren-like "Hot Now" signs and be unable to pass any of the 24 shops Krispy Kreme plans to open over the next five years without lunging through the doors and gorging themselves on the 390-calorie buns of death.


And, of course, it's America's fault.


"The fact that it is American makes me wary because they have been happy to peddle such unhealthy junk food, which is usually addictive," Sheldon Perrin, a financial broker cornered by the Telegraph, said of Krispy Kreme.


The growing girth of the average British backside is a hot topic here these days, so Krispy Kreme's timing couldn't be worse. The National Health Service says nearly two-thirds of men and 50 percent of the women here are overweight or obese, a ratio that has tripled in the past 20 years. An International obesity task force recently claimed that Britons are well on their way to becoming the fattest folks in Europe.


The British public's inclination so far has mirrored that of some Americans, who they almost gleefully point out have the widest loads in the world. It's not my fault, they say. Big Food is obviously to blame.


Papers have been packed with reports about how fatty food (originating in America, of course) and supersize portions are contributing to the decline of Western Civilization. The fat and carbohydrates in high-calorie fried foods have been called addictive and likened to heroin. Fast-food marketers are "enticing the unwary" with hefty portions that lead to cancer, insists the World Cancer Research Fund.


When policy makers start talking about doing things "for the kids," then you know wallets and liberties are in dire danger. It's now happening here.


One in six 15-year-olds in Britain is considered obese by some standards, and the figure is rising. As if on cue, the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency last month blamed TV advertising for the helpless little couch potatoes' pudgy profiles.


Its researchers discovered something that Madison Avenue has known for decades -- ads for breakfast cereals, soft drinks, candy and junk food lead to higher consumption of those products. McDonald's and its $67 million ad budget was singled out as the biggest culprit.


Much of the press and government may be busy pointing fingers at outside factors, but there are a few sane voices in the mix. In response to one obesity scare story, Labour MP Gerry Steinberg lashed out at what he called the "nanny state" politics dominating the debate. Individuals who eat, drink and smoke too much and can't be bothered to exercise have only themselves for blame for their protruding tummies.


More rational health experts are doing their best to place the blame where it belongs, too. Average calorie intakes in the UK and industrialized world haven't changed much over the last 20 years, they say. What have changed are lifestyles. People drive more. They work at desks. Adults spend their evenings in front of televisions, and kids spend their afternoons in front of computers or game consoles. Lifestyles are largely choice, they admit, not coercion.


These are things largely lost on researchers of the Food Standard Authority ilk. Instead of asking how they can banish the likes of Toucan Sam and the M&Ms men from television screens, they should be asking whether parents -- who still do the shopping over here as far as I can tell -- might share some blame for the Coco-Puffs and Mars bars crammed into their kitchen cupboards.


Apparently, the television "off" button is out of reach as well.


The writer is London Bureau Chief for Fox News.


TCS Daily Archives