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Bringing cakes into the office is killing your colleagues, says UK food watchdog boss

Surely there are quicker and more effective ways to end your co-workers

Every office has one – the inexplicably cheerful, kind and generous co-worker who brings in cake and/or biscuits and leaves them somewhere for their weight-sensitive colleagues to graze on.

If that's you, stop. You're killing your comrades, says the chairwoman of the UK's Food Standards Agency, who reckons distributing unhealthy snacks among staff is as bad as exposing them to second-hand smoke from cigarettes.

Rather than suggesting that workers aerosolize cake and slip it into the ventilation system for forced inhalation, Professor Susan Jebb believes that people cannot rely on their personal willpower alone when society is constantly bombarding us with junk food.

Speaking to The Times in a personal capacity, not on behalf of the watchdog she runs, Jebb said: "We all like to think we're rational, intelligent, educated people who make informed choices the whole time and we undervalue the impact of the environment.

"If nobody brought in cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day, but because people do bring cakes in, I eat them. Now, OK, I have made a choice, but people were making a choice to go into a smoky pub."

She argued that we now know passive smoking is harmful to others "and exactly the same is true of food."

Jebb, also a professor of diet and population health at the University of Oxford and member of The Times Health Commission, added: "With smoking, after a very long time, we have got to a place where we understand that individuals have to make some effort but that we can make their efforts more successful by having a supportive environment. But we still don't feel like that about food."

Though some Brits like to point and laugh at Americans for being obese, burger-munching, mobility scooter-riding hicks, in reality the UK is just as bad if not worse. In the US, nearly one in three adults are merely overweight and two in five are obese. Across the pond, two in three adults are just overweight and one in four are obese – a proportion double what it was 30 years ago [PDF].

(But while we're on stereotypes, Brits actually have better teeth than Americans thanks to free healthcare, despite being a constant source of satire.)

Jebb also slammed the government for delaying plans to ban junk food advertising on TV before 21.00 hours, inspired by former prime minister Boris Johnson's brush with death when he caught COVID-19, which he attributed to being "way overweight."

She said: "Advertising means that the businesses with the most money have the biggest influence on people's behavior. That's not fair. At the moment we allow advertising for commercial gain with no health controls on it whatsoever and we've ended up with a complete market failure because what you get advertised is chocolate and not cauliflower."

Unfortunately, she's not wrong. If there's one habit harder to kick than smoking, it's cake. ®

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