herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

MOD on Monday: Leo's calorie counting in restaurants leaves bad taste for usual suspects

Health Minister Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar

It is easy to understand the frustration that Leo Varadkar must feel.

Here is a Minister for Health who looks like he actually cares about the nation's health, and is determined to push through legislation about below-cost alcohol selling and labelling of foods that damage your health.

The minute he floats the idea, cue cries of outrage amongst the usual suspects.

Consider Leo's plan to make restaurants publish calorie counts beside their dishes, a relatively non-confrontational idea which he describes as "a very simple but effective way of encouraging people to choose a healthier option".

You'd have thought that everyone would welcome this - well, you'd be wrong.

unworkable

First up are Ireland's two leading dial-a-quote foodies - chef Derry Clarke and restaurateur Nick Munier. Clarke described the suggestion as "past ridiculous", Munier calls it "nonsense", with both suggesting that it is unworkable, as restaurants change their menus every day. Which, aside perhaps from daily specials, everyone knows is simply nonsense.

Restaurants Association of Ireland boss Adrian Cummins claims that this would cost each restaurant €5,000 to implement, though he makes no attempt whatsoever to explain where he gets this figure from. Even more absurd is his suggestion that the move would be impossible to monitor.

"Will inspectors be paid to eat out in all of Ireland's 22,000 food outlets and check if each menu has calorie counts on them?" he asked.

But why not apply that same logic to health and safety concerns about restaurants - why bother having health standards when you can't check all of Ireland's 22,000 restaurants for rats in the kitchen?

The glaringly obvious answer, which seems to elude Cummins, is that the threat of sanction acts as a deterrent, and all restaurants introduce the measures on the off chance that they may get caught. Exactly in the same way that health standards, car tax and TV licences work.

Cummins further suggests that this is more "nannying" by the State, which raises an important point because, when it comes to health, all the signs are that we need to be nannied.

Leaving people to their own devices, allowing them to make their own choices about what is good for them has, unfortunately, led to a nation of fatties.

Our ignorance of health issues, combined with our almost genetic laziness, has resulted in the need for shows such as Operation Transformation just to get people off their sofas, out of pubs, and into to some kind of respectable shape.

Without them, and without state "nannying" on the subjects of smoking, drinking and eating, most of us would be making a slow waddle towards the hospital ward as we get treated for the effects of a slothful lifestyle, with the cost - billions of euro a year - picked up by the taxpayer.

Varadkar has shown bravery in coming out as the first openly gay minister.

But it's now time to show even more bravery by sticking to his guns, and being the first minister to have the will, and the nerve, to tackle Ireland's chronic obesity problem.

It would, be nice if he was remembered for something more important than his sexuality.

 

Have they no homes to go to, Danny?

The Healy-Raes were at it again this week, though this time rather than advocating that people should break the law, one of them was simply doing so himself.

Hot of the heels of TD Michael Healy-Rae's call to arms last week, when he suggested that he wouldn't object to property owners taking pot shots at burglars in order to issue summary justice, his councillor brother Danny has hit the headlines.

Danny, you may remember, had previously suggested that the drink-driving laws should be relaxed for people in his area, so that they would be allowed to drive after "two or three pints" to overcome the difficulty they have in getting home without taxis and public transport at their disposal.

He was in court last week, and fined €150, having been found guilty of allowing 30 or so people people to drink in his pub after hours - 2am to be precise - the second time that he has been convicted of such an offence. Danny's explanation for his pub being so crowded, an hour after the official drinking-up time had passed, was that they were celebrating a family birthday.

Regardless of his explanation, it does at least seem that Danny has found a solution to the long-standing problem of his constituents finding a way home after a night's drinking.

Don't ask them to go home at all...

Nadia keeps flaws hidden

NNadia Forde is on the lookout for love, with the message that nobody is perfect.

"Everybody has their imperfections," she says, "and we should embrace them. They're the endearing things you come to love."

There are two problems with this revelation. Firstly, her admissions come from a promotion with a dating website, which means that she was essentially paid to say them. Secondly, if Nadia is so fond of people's flaws, then why does the picture which accompanies her campaign feature her heavily made-up and hair carefully styled? Was the everyday Nadia too "imperfect" for the campaign?

VVicky Dempsey, wife of notorious gangster 'Fat' Freddie Thompson, has been given a two-year suspended jail sentence for her part in an altercation that took place in a pet shop. Vicky was present while her brother and another man assaulted someone in said shop and, when the victim's girlfriend intervened, Vicky pulled her away by the hair, telling her: "Leave him, he is getting what he deserves." This little vignette of underworld life led to Vicky being given a suspended sentence to add to her 12 previous convictions, and suggests that, in order to avoid further trouble, she should keep her distance from animals - and maybe she should also stay away from pet shops.

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