‘Eat out to help out’ is doing Boris’ ‘Better Health’ campaign no favours

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The Government’s new ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has been introduced in order to support the hospitality industry in their bounce back from the Coronavirus slump. The initiative was revealed almost concurrently with the government’s new anti-obesity scheme ‘Better Health’, which hopes to ‘protect the NHS and improve our nation’s health’; schemes which are causing confusion amongst experts and the general population when pitted against each other.

‘Eat Out to Help Out’ offers customers a huge 50% discount on food and soft drinks throughout August, in venues including restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs, as well as food halls and canteens across the UK. Customers are not only allowed, but also encouraged to use the discount as many times as they like, although some have complained the discount does not apply to takeaways and can only be used from Monday to Wednesday.

Yet, with some of the UK’s biggest chains taking part, including McDonald’s, Wagamama and Nandos, the scheme is likely to be a hit amongst many. It has unsurprisingly been warmly welcomed by the hospitality industry, which has seen an unprecedented economic decline throughout the lockdown, with 1.4 million workers furloughed, more than any other sector.

However, the scheme has been criticised by experts who argue it will completely undermine the government’s new anti-obesity scheme, ‘Better Health’, which was announced just one week after ‘Eat Out to Help Out.’ ‘Better Health’ has been revealed as a bid to decrease the UK’s obesity problem, which according to the Department of Health and Social Care costs the NHS £6 billion a year. The scheme is being led by Public Health England in the hope of encouraging the UK to lose weight (if they need to), as more than 63% of adults in England are reported to be overweight or living with obesity.

More than 63% of adults in the England are reported to be overweight or living with obesity.

One of the measures in the scheme includes ending ‘buy one, get one free’ promotions on foods high in fat and sugar; a measure which seems particularly contradictory to the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative launched just one week before. ‘Buy one, get one free’ promotions have been criticised as promoting unhealthy eating, with the Department of Health and Social Care claiming the UK spends the most amount of money on buying food products on promotion out of all other European countries.

 However, with 72,000 venues across the UK currently taking part in ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, the government’s plans to reduce the number of people living with obesity seem pretty hopeless. KFC have announced their popcorn chicken meal now only costs £2.15, compared to it’s normal cost of £4.29, and its boneless banquet is down from £5.99 to just £3. With deals like that, it’s hard to see how the government is encouraging healthy eating.

 It is no secret that the economy is in dire need of all the help it can get, but there also appears to be serious inconsistencies in the government’s messages. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in regard to the ‘Better Health’ campaign that “we need to reduce unhelpful influences like promotions”, yet throughout August a scheme is in place to encourage us to go out and receive a massive 50% discount, as many times as we want (from Monday to Wednesday)!

It is no secret that the economy is in dire need of all the help it can get, but there also appears to be serious inconsistencies in the government’s messages.

The two schemes are in complete conflict with one another, and although ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ will boost the economy, at the same time it will most likely put even more pressure on the NHS by encouraging unhealthy eating. Good intentions certainly fuelled the ‘Better Health’ campaign, but actions speak louder than words, and ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ appears to be doing the exact opposite of what the NHS need right now.

Image: I See Modern Britain via Creative Commons

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