Tuesday 26 March 2019

Lay of the Land: It's the country's health versus industrial wealth

  

'Leo Varadkar, the doctor in the Dail (not the house nor the hospital) intended ploughing ahead regardless, until the backlash prompted them to defer changes until November 1 - coincidentally when winter bugs kick in. Last year, he called food supplements
'Leo Varadkar, the doctor in the Dail (not the house nor the hospital) intended ploughing ahead regardless, until the backlash prompted them to defer changes until November 1 - coincidentally when winter bugs kick in. Last year, he called food supplements "snake oil".' (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fiona O'Connell

We are lucky to have a little health food store in this country town. Though little it is, and sandwiched between an expanded chemist and ample-sized convenience store.

It is independently owned by down-to-earth folk and sells food, supplements - and even treats that won't have you climbing the walls thanks to toxic additives. Everything is ethically produced, without ripping up the rainforests or ripping off workers. Yet many locals never enter what is still seen as niche.

And it looks like our Government wants to keep it that way, if not annihilate such places altogether. Labour leader Brendan Howlin warned that plans to heavily tax food supplements means some businesses would not survive, and many consumers would be unable to continue to afford their health routines.

Leo Varadkar, the doctor in the Dail (not the house nor the hospital) intended ploughing ahead regardless, until the backlash prompted them to defer changes until November 1 - coincidentally when winter bugs kick in. Last year, he called food supplements "snake oil". Perhaps before remembering that the industry is worth an estimated €40m a year to the Irish economy, and beginning to soften his opinion.

Still it's surprising the Taoiseach doesn't hang out in health stores between his Hereford steaks. For surely the issue isn't so much supplements as supporting stores that go against the grain of over-consumption of junk food, and which have been bravely bucking that trend.

For western medicine is crucial - but as a last resort, not the first, what with infections growing resistant to antibiotics because of overuse.

And if health stores sell snake oil, then what are convenience stores flogging if not obesity, heart disease and diabetes? Practically the only stuff they stock on many of the shelves that isn't riddled with sugar and trans fats is the toilet paper.

Yet where is the hefty VAT on what makes us sick and fat? "A burger is taxed at 13.5pc and they want to put 23pc on all food supplements," a health food shop owner outside Leinster House told RTE. "We are trying to encourage people to be healthy; you'd think the Government would be on board - but they're not."

Which begs the question: just who are these shops convenient for?

Except the food industry, which offloads former waste products like whey and harmful additives like corn syrup. And the drug companies, given poor diet plays a key role in many people ending up on permanent medication, sometimes leading to complications or other ailments brought on by side effects that require more drugs. While medicine that doesn't make you better, sure sounds like snake oil.

In a sane world, health stores would be twice the size. And every town across the country would have one. Because if our health is our wealth, no wonder protests against plans to penalise it are fighting fit.

Sunday Independent

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