Blog: Beyond cakegate: Why we need to consider the impact of our environment more seriously

by Chloe Higham-Smith | 30 January, 2023 12:44 pm

Cake and other baked treats in the workplace have been a staple for birthdays and other occasions for many years. However, one of the country’s leading scientists has highlighted office cake culture as an unhelpful factor when it comes to making healthier choices. These comments have led to a social media storm attracting lots of scrutiny from a range of sectors including the public and dubbed ‘cakegate’. In this blog, we attempt to unpick some of the misleading headlines that have been circulating on the story and highlight the key message that appears to have been missed in this coverage.

Last week The Times published an interview with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Chair and Professor of Diet and Population Health at the University of Oxford, Susan Jebb.

Speaking in her capacity as Professor and member of the Times Health Commission, key messages in the interview included:

However, the interview has been used to create misleading headlines which largely miss the key point Professor Jebb was trying to make.

The comments also prompted a YouGov poll which found that 3/4 of adults think it is acceptable to bring cake into the office[i][1].

The Prime Minister’s office also responded with the following:

“The Prime Minister believes that personal choice should be baked into our approach.

‘We want to encourage healthy lifestyles and are taking action to tackle obesity, which has cost the NHS £6billion annually.

‘However, the way to deal with this issue is not to stop people from occasionally bringing in treats for their co-workers.”

A 2020 National Audit Office report[ii][2] suggests that the government has had limited success on reducing the prevalence of children living with obesity, and the inequality gap between the most and least deprived is actually getting worse. Furthermore, the government have recently rowed back on promises made to reduce pervasive marketing of HFSS food and drink that would address the key point Professor Jebb was making in her interview – by improving our environment to make healthier choices, easier.

Our take on ‘cakegate’:




  1. [i]: #_edn1
  2. [ii]: #_edn2
  3. [i]: #_ednref1
  5. [ii]: #_ednref2

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