CHANCES ARE GOOD that, since it is no longer the 1960s, your office is not filled with cigarette smoke and nobody is encouraging you to share a pack of office darts. But there might be an office cake or some sweet treats laying around — and some think that could be just as problematic.
Earlier this month, the chair of the UK’s Food Standards Agency made the comparison between second-hand smoke and office treat culture in an interview. She was arguing not that their harms are identical necessarily, but that just like smoking, an environment where sugar is prevalent can lead people to overconsumption. “If nobody brought cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes,” she said.
Here in Ontario, some are on her side. In the Waterloo region, CTV interviewed several office workers and experts who say it should spark a bigger conversation about what kind of treat options are brought into the workplace.
“The more opportunities there are for us to consume unhealthy, delicious food, the more we do it,” said University of Waterloo public health professor Leia Minaker. “What we need to think about is the little things that add up over time.”
Unlike smoking, it’s less about restricting treats than it is about offering alternatives. “It’s more about providing opportunities for the default decision to be healthy,” she says. “It’s not about restricting people’s choices.”
Research also backs up this idea. A University of Chester study from 2020 (the Brits, it seems, are a far advanced society when it comes to cake studies) found that two-thirds of workers find it hard to resist cake that is offered to them; 95 per cent of them, it also found, would ideally like to see a cake in the office once a week or less.
Cake culture, it seems, has gotten out of control in the office. “It comes from a place of generosity and wanting to share,” said the report’s author, Lou Walker. “But what is happening now is, it’s happening every single day, and that means it’s no longer special.” Kieran Delamont