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Got to the bottom of the sugary tea cup

John Rentoul

SweetTea580 40329a 300x181 Got to the bottom of the sugary tea cupGot to the bottom of the Great Cheddar Cheese Sandwich and Sugared Tea Mystery. I noted on Saturday that John Spellar had asked a strange parliamentary question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he plans to ban the sale of (a) tea and coffee with sugar and (b) cheddar cheese sandwiches in hospitals.

The answer was “No”, making it number 363 in my series, as Rick Role pointed out.

Another commenter, Paradisenost, remembered that there had been a report in The Sunday Times to which Spellar might have been referring. And so there was, on 27 June (it has gone behind the pay wall, so I reproduce it here):

Hospitals ordered to ban sugar in your tea as a risk to health

Documents circulated to NHS hospitals in Wales recommend water, juice, seeds, dried fruit and some low fat cakes as healthy alternatives

If you’ve had a shock and need comforting with a cup of hot, sweet tea, you’d better hope you are not in a Welsh hospital.

The NHS in Wales is to ban the sale of tea or coffee with a spoonful of sugar from hospital vending machines because of “the risk to health”. The prohibition follows a government ban on schools across Britain selling fizzy drinks, crisps and chocolate bars.

The vending industry fears the sugar ban might now be extended to the rest of Britain.

Hospitals say they are being ordered by the Welsh assembly to remove sweetened tea and coffee from vending machines because it offers no nutritional benefit and poses a risk to dental health.

Welsh assembly documents circulated to NHS hospitals in Wales recommend water, juice, seeds, dried fruit, sandwiches and some low fat cakes as healthy alternatives. However, cheddar cheese sandwiches are not permitted because they are considered to contain too much fat.

The Welsh assembly said in a statement: “Hospitals are visited by a very broad cross-section of society and, as such, the whole hospital environment should reflect the importance of healthy living.”

The nutritional model adopted for the healthy vending machines was initially developed by the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) to restrict the advertising of unhealthy foods on children’s television. It was criticised at the time for identifying raisins, Marmite and cheese as unhealthy foods.

Gillian White of the Automatic Vending Association said even the FSA had advised the Welsh assembly not to use the model for vending machines. She said it had proposed a compromise to Edwina Hart, the Welsh assembly health minister, suggesting the use of Half Spoon sugar, which is a mix of real sugar and artificial sweetener.

An email from a Welsh assembly official states: “The minister has noted the suggestion [on Half Spoon sugar], however, has not agreed to it. The current Health Promoting Hospital Vending Guidance states that ‘all foods and drink supplied/ sold from vending machines will have a positive nutritional benefit’.”

The Department of Health said last week it was not considering following the Welsh example.

Careful reading of the article will confirm that at no point does it suggest that the Welsh Assembly has banned or intends to ban cheddar cheese sandwiches or sugared tea, merely that it has issued guidelines (How Journalism Works, chapter 48).

But no doubt we will all be grateful to John Spellar for having lifted the threat of PCgawnmad to the rest of a fearful nation.

Glad to have cleared that up.

Photograph: PA

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  • airmarshall

    Now you know something of me John and I’m not one for rocking the boat, but I do believe it is a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

    It’s merely a guideline …

  • Paragluteus

    Rentoul,

    As someone who apparently makes a living talking about politics to impressionable youth, I am surprised that you did not grasp the subtlety of the MP’s action.

    From your writing, I infer that you are not that intelligent or experienced, and that a certain conceit prevents your apprehension of this limitation.

    A bit less knee-jerk twitterblogging and a bit more ratiocination would improve the standard of your work.

  • http://www.intellectsoft.co.uk/blackberry_application_development.html blackberry developers

    I think it would be right and very logical decision to ban fat, sugar and unhealthy products in hospitals, as well as schools. It would make the whole nation much healthier, prevent children from getting fat, and patients of hospitals from doing harm to their health. I don`t even understand why it hasn`t been done long ago. As for me, I don`t put sugar in my tea at all, never, even at home. It`s pretty delicious and much healthier.Regards,Susan, from blackberry development

  • http://www.intellectsoft.co.uk/blackberry_application_development.html blackberry developers

    I think it would be right and very logical decision to ban fat, sugar and unhealthy products in hospitals, as well as schools. It would make the whole nation much healthier, prevent children from getting fat, and patients of hospitals from doing harm to their health. I don`t even understand why it hasn`t been done long ago. As for me, I don`t put sugar in my tea at all, never, even at home. It`s pretty delicious and much healthier.
    Regards,
    Susan, from blackberry development

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