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Not fancy making your own lunch then? College student wildly claims there’s ‘nothing to eat except McDonald’s and Greggs’ for lunch – but critics say he is just ‘making excuses’


A student was today accused of ‘making excuses’ by claiming that Greggs and McDonald’s were the only options he had for lunch.

In a clip shared on BBC Radio 4, the unidentified college student argued it was a ‘problem’ that there is ‘nowhere’ else for him to get food.

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, told MailOnline that ‘anyone can make their own packed lunch’ and people are making ‘excuses’ for not following a healthy diet. 

It comes as researchers today named companies they claim are reliant on selling junk food to teens and children.

Giants such as Ferrero, Mondelez and Unilever were found to have the unhealthiest portfolios in the study, backed by the Government’s former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance

Discussing the research, campaigners said it is ‘far too difficult’ for young people to eat healthily, warning they are being bombarded with junk food ads on social media, at bus stops and even through text messages at night. 

A student claimed that Greggs and McDonald's were the only options he had for lunch

A student claimed that Greggs and McDonald’s were the only options he had for lunch

The unidentified college student said it was a 'problem' that there is 'nowhere' for him to go apart from the two chains for food in a clip shared on BBC Radio 4

The unidentified college student said it was a ‘problem’ that there is ‘nowhere’ for him to go apart from the two chains for food in a clip shared on BBC Radio 4

In a clip shared during the show, the student said: ‘On my college dinners, there’s nowhere for me to go except McDonald’s and Gregg’s and it’s a problem.’

No other details were provided, so it’s unclear if he brings in his own meals or regularly buys them at the chains.

Luke Hall, 18, an advisory representative for Jamie Oliver‘s youth campaign group Bite Back, said the latest study ‘reveals a wider truth that we already knew — that it is far too difficult for me to eat healthily’. 

He told the Today programme: ‘I’ll get up and be scrolling my phone and I might see an ad for a burger, then I’ll go and walk to the bus stop, for example, and then there’ll be an ice cream staring me back in the face and then I’ll turn my bus ticket over and there’ll be another junk food ad.

‘I haven’t even got to school yet and I’m already being bombarded by my environment when I’m just trying to get through my day.’ 

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE? 

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

– Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

– Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

– 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: Five portions of fruit and vegetables, two whole-wheat cereal biscuits, two thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

– Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

– Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

– Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

– Drink six to eight cups/glasses of water a day

– Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide  

Mr Hall, who is also a youth MP for South Tyneside, added: ‘One of my friends was saying the other day, he was going to bed and the last thing he saw on his phone was an ad from a junk food company texting him. 

‘And it really doesn’t seem fair that in a world where one in three children are going to have their lives impacted by a food-related health condition at some time in the future, that these junk food companies have really infiltrated our lives in this way.’ 

He added: ‘I walk down the cereal aisle for example and there’ll be Tony the Tiger staring at me in the face, begging me to buy these cereal bars which are rammed full of sugar but they might say they’re really high in fibre or really high in iron and it just doesn’t seem fair that these misleading tactics are being used.’ 

Mr Snowdon said: ‘Societal pressure leads people to make excuses for not conforming to a healthy eating ideal. 

‘Anyone can make their own packed lunch. 

‘It will always be cheaper than eating out and will be as healthy as they want it to be. 

‘Anywhere that has a Greggs and a McDonalds will have other, “healthier” food outlets nearby. 

‘If there is demand for so-called healthy food, the market will meet it. Even McDonalds sold salads for a while before it worked out that people didn’t want them.’

Tam Fry, chair of the National Obesity Forum, told MailOnline: ‘When only one per cent of school lunches painstakingly prepared by their parents have been rated as healthy. it should not be surprising that children/ young people copy what their parents fed them on.

‘”Time” is the key. It is so much quicker and easier to go to McDonald’s or Gregg’s especially when such companies spend fortunes telling them how delicious and healthy their cheap products are.’

Research today, in collaboration with Bite Back, claimed that the most successful global food companies operating in the UK are reliant on selling food and drinks that are harmful to children’s health.

A team at Oxford University analysed 241 packaged food and drink brands and more than 5,000 products.

Results showed that seven of the 10 biggest global food manufacturers made more than two thirds (68 per cent) of their packaged food and drink sales in the UK in 2022 from products high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS).

Ferrero and Mondelez had the unhealthiest portfolios with an estimated 100 per cent and 98 per cent of their sales in 2022 coming from products such as Kinder Surprise and Freddo bars. 

After these companies, Unilever had the highest proportion of sales from unhealthy products at 84 per cent, followed by Kellogg’s at 77 per cent, according to the study.

Results showed that food manufacturers in the UK spent £55million in 2022 on online adverts for food and drink products from four food categories associated with children’s excess sugar and calorie intake – chocolate (£40.9million), crisps (£9.3million), biscuits (£2.9million) and ice cream (£1.9million).

Just seven companies were behind more than 90 per cent of these online ads.

As part of its ‘FuelUsDontFoolUs’ campaign, Bite Back has written to the top 10 global food makers, calling on them to stop ‘misleading’ young people with marketing tactics and end health claims that hide the unhealthy aspects of their products.

James Toop, chief executive at Bite Back, said: ‘We are sleepwalking into a preventable health crisis. Both government and businesses need to take action so that manufacturers sell more healthy food and stop the advertising and misleading tactics that target young people.’

Luke Hall, 18, an advisory representative for the group, said the study 'reveals a wider truth that we already knew — that it is far too difficult for me to eat healthily'

Luke Hall, 18, an advisory representative for the group, said the study ‘reveals a wider truth that we already knew — that it is far too difficult for me to eat healthily’

He told the Today programme: 'I'll get up and be scrolling my phone and I might see an ad for a burger, then I'll go and walk to the bus stop, for example, and then there'll be an ice cream staring me back in the face and then I'll turn my bus ticket over and there'll be another junk food ad'

He told the Today programme: ‘I’ll get up and be scrolling my phone and I might see an ad for a burger, then I’ll go and walk to the bus stop, for example, and then there’ll be an ice cream staring me back in the face and then I’ll turn my bus ticket over and there’ll be another junk food ad’

Dr Chris van Tulleken, an associate professor at University College London, told the programme: 'We should stick big black octagon warning labels according to the [fat, sugar and salt] levels that we have agreed on as a nation to warn people'

Dr Chris van Tulleken, an associate professor at University College London, told the programme: ‘We should stick big black octagon warning labels according to the [fat, sugar and salt] levels that we have agreed on as a nation to warn people’

Dr Lauren Bandy, an Oxford University researcher behind the study, said: ‘These findings are consistent with other research that has shown the reliance that leading food and drink companies have on sales of unhealthy products.

‘These businesses dominate the market and while many claim they are making progress to reformulate and make their products healthier, we need stronger commitments and a greater rate of change if we are to see a meaningful reduction in diet-related disease, both in the UK and globally.’

Sir Patrick said: ‘The young people at the heart of Bite Back have rightly called time on an industry that is maximising profit over their health.

‘We now need to listen to them and put their voices and their interests at the heart of political and business decision-making.

Dr Chris van Tulleken, an associate professor at University College London, told the programme: ‘The ancestry of these ultra-processed or high fat, salt, sugar foods is in tobacco. The biggest tobacco companies in the world in the 1980s owned the biggest food companies. 

‘They used their marketing techniques that Luke’s just elaborated on, they used their flavour molecules to create the range of molecules that make up most of our diet today. 

‘They are addictive, they are incredibly harmful in a lot of different ways but they definitely drive weight gain and malnutrition. And we need to use a tobacco control approach.’

Dr van Tulleken will be giving evidence to the House of Lords food, diet and obesity committee alongside Henry Dimbleby, the Government’s former food adviser.

The TV doctor and author added: ‘We should stick big black octagon warning labels according to the [fat, sugar and salt] levels that we have agreed on as a nation to warn people.

‘At the moment, if you buy a can of Coca-Cola, it has three green traffic lights on it and one red for sugar. How can a can of cola have three green signals? My six-year-old can buy it in any shop.’

What did the food giants say in response to the Oxford study? 

A spokeswoman for Kellanova, the owner of Kellogg’s, said: ‘We offer a broad range of products to meet our shoppers’ needs, whether that’s a tube of Pringles to share with friends, a family breakfast cereal that’s lower in sugar or an indulgent cereal for a treat.

‘We understand we have a role to help people make healthier choices. That’s why since 2011, we’ve reduced sugar across our cereals by 18% and salt by 23%. Four out of our five top-selling cereals are non-HFSS.

‘For those who want to know more about the nutritionals of our foods, we show exactly what and how much is in there by putting traffic light labelling on our cereal boxes. That way people can decide if the food is for them.’

A Ferrero spokesman said: ‘The Ferrero data in Bite Back’s analysis does not reflect all our non-HFSS product portfolio as these have been excluded.

‘At Ferrero, we make unique high-quality products and are constantly evolving our portfolio to meet a wide range of consumer needs to provide choice. Over 90% of our products come in portions of less than 150 calories.

‘As a responsible company, we believe the best way we can help support our consumers is to offer our products in small, individually wrapped portions with clear nutritional labelling and support with education on how to enjoy our products as part of a balanced lifestyle.’

Unilever said: ‘The statistics Bite Back have included in their report are based on looking at only 63% of our products, rather than our full product range and are therefore not an accurate representation. Our own published data, capturing 100% of our products in the UK, shows that 32% of our portfolio is non-HFSS.

‘We continue to take action to reduce the salt, sugar and calories in our products, keeping their great taste, as well as offering choice to our shoppers by introducing healthier variants to our ranges and in 2003 we were one of the first companies to apply principles for responsible marketing of foods and beverages to children.

‘All of our children’s ice creams are under 110 calories and non-HFSS, such as Wall’s Twister products, and we have lower sugar and salt options for some of our best-loved products including Marmite Reduced Salt, Ben & Jerry’s Lighten Up, Carte D’Or Vanilla Light, Hellmann’s Lighter Than Light mayonnaise and Knorr Zero Salt.’



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