Anna Soubry says eating lunch at your desk is 'disgusting'

Office workers brand minister 'out of touch' for saying we should all 'chill out' and have a 'proper' lunch

LAST UPDATED AT 10:24 ON Thu 24 Jan 2013

EATING food at your desk is "disgusting", the minister for public health has said. Anna Soubry wants workers to leave the office and enjoy a "proper lunch" where they can enjoy the food, "chill out" and "get their head back together".

A day after outraging anti-poverty campaigners by saying poor people were easy to spot because they tended to be overweight or obese, Soubry has turned her attention to the eating habits of the nation's office workers.

She said she has instructed workers at her constituency office in Broxtowe, Nottingham to "take time out to have a meal" for lunch rather than eating with one hand and tapping the keyboard with the other.

"Today, people don't get paid for their lunch. It's mad and it's wrong," Soubry told the Daily Telegraph. "Also, it's disgusting eating over a keyboard."

The minister said when she joined the cabinet she was "freaked out" when underlings offered to buy her takeaway lunch. Initially, she thought "how kind", but then realised "it was to keep me at my desk so I can't escape".

Her comments drew a mostly hostile response on social media sites from harried workers who said they would love to enjoy leisurely, healthy lunches, but their hectic work schedules did not allow it.

"If I didn't have to subsidise the meals served to Soubry and all the other politicians in the House of Commons restaurants I perhaps could afford to eat more healthily myself," was one response. Another wrote: "Another spoilt Tory – totally out of touch with reality."

But there was some support from office workers who admitted their desks were encrusted with the debris from hastily consumed meals. "Pizza is getting disgusting to me, but only because I have it every day for lunch," was one remark posted on Twitter.

Other commentators were still, erm, digesting Soubry's remarks about the correlation between obesity and poverty.

Diane Abbott, the shadow public health minister, said the minister was "demonising" the less well-off and a spokesman for the Child Poverty Action Group told The Times that "cuts in government support" for the low-paid was making the obesity crisis worse.

The New Statesman's Alex Andreou said Soubry's comments about obesity were "not evidence-based, but prejudice-based" and "should not be allowed to inform policy". He argues that an analyisis of "the most recent and most comprehensive set of figures" from the Department of Health shows there is "no obvious relationship" between obesity and income. · 

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Re - Anna Soubry's comments on taking a proper lunch break, I could not agree more. Life is for living, and while, of course, we need to work, earn and succeed, all this is for nothing if we forget the sheer pleasures of sharing with other people communication and the partaking, together, of 'food and 'wine.

There is an obvious relationship between obesity and education. Children need to learn about nutrition and the preparation of simple, healthy meals as an essential part of their curriculum. Anna Soubry needs to be applauded for joining the concerned ranks who wish to address this health crisis.

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