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Opinion

Three crisps or half a plain biscuit a week is your limit, kid: crackers public-health killjoys outlaw treats for children

If there’s one country that leads the world in public-health madness, it’s Ireland. And the latest guidance from its Department of Health is right up there in the nanny state’s greatest hits of petty lifestyle micromanagement.

The Irish government has issued new dietary guidelines for children aged one to four years old, apparently designed by nutrition experts. It includes a new pyramid (health zealots love a food pyramid), what portion sizes should look like and when treats should be given.

The source of hilarity in it is the suggestion that treats for children aged four and under should be offered only in “tiny” amounts, once a week. According to a report in the Irish Independent: “The advice is three small meals a day, along with two to three healthy snacks every day. When it comes to foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt, it is advising a ‘tiny’ portion just once a week. The following are examples of ‘tiny’ portions in the new program: one square of chocolate, three crisps, half a plain biscuit and three soft sweets.

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 A whole THREE crisps? Wow, thanks, Mum!” “That’s ok, darling. If you’re good, you can have another three next week.

Only a mindset that sees sugar, salt and fat as forms of poison could possibly conclude that this was sensible. Of course, feeding children little else but snack foods would be less than ideal for their health, but there is simply nothing wrong with them having such foods in the kind of moderation exercised by most parents.

This is the politics of the killjoy. What a miserable outlook it is to try to deny youngsters the pleasure of sweets, crisps and biscuits. This isn’t a drive to stave off weight problems in toddlers, but more a shameless attempt to guilt-trip parents about giving their children treats.

More practically, wits on Twitter were wondering how exactly you could get just three crisps. Open a pack, deliver the state-approved quantity and then chuck the rest away? This is the country of Tayto – a brand of crisps that’s practically an alternative religion. (There’s even a Tayto theme park. No, really.) Will the good folks at Tayto now provide tiny bags designed for that weekly treat? And, if so, what will the eco-warriors say about all that packaging?

Ireland has a long track record of being at the forefront of intervening in its citizens’ lifestyles for the apparent good of their health – whether they like it or not. For example, in 2004, it was the first country in Europe to introduce a ban on smoking in public places. This is not to suggest smoking cigarettes is good for you, but the fug-filled bar was as quintessentially Irish as you could get. (The irony was that smoking rates actually went up in the year after the ban.)

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Drinkers have been hit hard in the pocket, too. According to a report, The Nanny State Index 2019, Ireland “has the highest rate of wine duty, the second-highest rate of beer duty and the third-highest rate of spirits duty”. Sadly, Ireland had to make do with the silver medal when it came to the taxing of sugary drinks, pipped by the UK by just one month when it introduced the levy in 2018. Adverts for foods high in sugar, salt and fat are banned on TV during programmes mostly watched by under-18s.

A more immediate problem, apart from the sheer miserablism of this mindset, is that these eejits are in charge of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, too. And the response to that has been just as mad. For example, ‘wet’ pubs in Dublin have been forced to close because they don’t serve food. But you can drink in an outside area of a pub if you’re eating a meal. The logic is mystifying, until you realise that these are the actions of people who think there’s something morally wrong with just going for a beer. But the economic impact is all too clear.

Still, at least an epidemic is a real public-health problem. Children enjoying a bit of chocolate or a few crisps is not. Ireland’s public-health control freaks really take the biscuit.

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