Cakes are brought into offices to celebrate practically anything, from birthdays to leaving-dos and even the relief of reaching 3pm on a Friday afternoon.
But sharing a celebratory sweet treat among colleagues was today controversially compared to being as harmful as passive smoking by the Government’s food tsar.
Food Standards Agency chair Professor Susan Jebb’s comments triggered massive backlash on social media, as well as a poll that revealed three-quarters of Brits think it’s acceptable to take baked offerings to work.
Even Rishi Sunak hit back at the warning, with the PM’s advisers revealing that he was ‘very partial’ to a slice of carrot cake.
Leading experts today hit back at the parallels drawn to the toxic effects of second-hand smoking, arguing that cake ‘is simply a type of food’ which can be enjoyed in moderation. But they insisted it should not be a daily treat.
Servings of cakes sold on the High Street — like M&S’ loved Colin the Caterpillar — can contain more than 450 calories and 60g of sugar, MailOnline analysis shows.
MailOnline looked at 160 cakes available on the high street shows that. The most calorific option was Sainsbury’s Cookie Dough Chocolate Chip Madeira Cake (top left). Tesco’s Finest Trillionaire Cake was also among the worst offenders (top middle). A Cookies and Cream Celebration Cake at Asda (top right) has 460 calories per 100g and 48g of sugar. The most calorific option at Waitrose is the Coffee and Caramel Cake (bottom left). At M&S, the least healthy cake is its famous Colin The Caterpillar Cake (bottom middle). Available at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, the Maltesers Party Cake (bottom right) is also one of the least healthy options
Professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency, says bringing cake into work is as harmful to colleagues as secondhand smoking. But Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said the PM believes that personal choice should be baked into our approach
A poll by YouGov, which asked more than 5,000 Brits what they think about brining unhealthy foods to the office, revealed that 77 per cent think it is either ‘completely’ or ‘somewhat’ acceptable. One in 10 (nine per cent) said it is ‘somewhat unacceptable’, while four per cent said it is ‘completely unacceptable’. A tenth (11 per cent) said they didn’t know
Professor Jebb told The Times: ‘If nobody brought in cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day.
‘But because people do bring cakes in, I eat them. Now, okay, I have made a choice. But people were making a choice to go into a smoky pub.’
Professor Jebb noted the two situations were not identical — but warned the effects of smoking caused harm to others ‘and exactly the same is true of food’.
But she added: ‘With smoking, after a very long time, we have got to a place where we understand that individuals have to make some effort but that we can make their efforts more successful by having a supportive environment.
‘But we still don’t feel like that about food.’
Mr Sunak pushed back against the comments.
Asked what he made of the suggestion that office cake and passive smoking were comparable, the PM’s official spokesperson said: ‘No. 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.’
Mr Sunak’s press secretary added that he is ‘very partial to a piece of cake’ and most enjoys carrot and red velvet cake.
Aides underlined the message by bringing in cupcakes for journalists at a briefing after the weekly PMQs session.
Professor Jebb’s comments also sparked social media fury with defiant Brits, who said comparing cake at work with exposure to cigarette smoke was ‘joyless’.
‘Unless you take cake to work and smash into the faces of your colleagues, I fail to see how it could be like passive smoking,’ another Twitter user said.
Others accused her of being ‘bitter that no one brought cake into the office’ for her birthday.
Professor Jebb’s comments also sparked social media backlash with Brits, who said comparing cake at work with exposure to cigarette smoke as ‘joyless’. ‘Unless you take cake to work and smash into the faces of your colleagues, I fail to see how it could be like passive smoking,’ another Twitter user said. Others accused her of being ‘bitter that no one brought cake into the office’ for her birthday
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
• Eat at least 5 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: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 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 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 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
The majority of the public also disapprove of Professor Jebb’s stance.
A poll by YouGov, which asked more than 5,000 Brits what they think about bringing unhealthy foods to the office, revealed that 77 per cent think it is either ‘completely’ or ‘somewhat’ acceptable.
One in 10 (nine per cent) said it is ‘somewhat unacceptable’, while four per cent said it is ‘completely unacceptable’.
A tenth (11 per cent) said they didn’t know.
However, MailOnline findings shows just how bad cakes can be for the waistline, when consumed in excess.
Analysis of 160 cakes available on the high street shows that, per 100g, the treats can contain nearly 500 calories and 15 teaspoons of sugar.
The most calorific option was Sainsbury’s Cookie Dough Chocolate Chip Madeira Cake, which is a sponge cake decorated with cookie crumb frosting.
It has 463 calories per 100g and 43.4g of sugar — around as much as two Mars bars (228 calories) or nine McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives (4.8g sugar), respectively.
Tesco’s Finest Trillionaire Cake — caramel and brownie cake covered in chocolate ganache — was also among the worst offenders.
It has 462 calories, as much as two-and-a-half Krispy Kreme Original Glazed doughnuts and 44.9g of sugar, which is equivalent to two chocolate muffins.
A Cookies and Cream Celebration Cake at Asda, made with chocolate and madeira sponges and cookie-flavoured icing, has 460 calories per 100g and 48g of sugar.
For context, an average man is supposed to consume around 2,500 calories per day to maintain weight, while a woman needs around 2,000.
And adults should eat no more than 30g of free sugars daily, which are those added to food and drink, as opposed to those found naturally in milk, fruit and vegetables.
The most calorific option at Waitrose is the Coffee and Caramel Cake — coffee sponge with salted caramel buttercream — which has 459 calories and 35.5g of sugar per 100g.
This is around as many calories as a large McDonald’s Chocolate Milkshake (468) and more sugar than a can of Coca Cola (35g).
At M&S, the least healthy cake is its famous Colin The Caterpillar Cake — a chocolate sponge roll filled with chocolate buttercream — which has 452 calories and 46.3g of sugar per 100g slice.
Available at Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, the Maltesers Party Cake is also one of the least healthy options — with 452 calories and 33g of sugar per 100.
This more than two Kit Kat Chunky bars (203 calories) and nearly as much sugar as a Twix Xtra bar.
However, many of the supermarkets recommend that a slice is between 50 and 75g counts as one serving, rather than 100g.
And experts insist that the occasional sweet treat is fine as part of a balanced diet.
Professor Gunter Kuhnle, an expert in nutrition at the University of Reading, told MailOnline that ‘even the NHS Eatwell guide includes treats such as cake’.
‘A balanced diet can include many things, and cakes can definitely be part of that,’ he said.
Professor Kuhnle said the FSA chair’s comparison of smoking and cakes at work is ‘not very helpful’.
He noted: ‘Second hand smoke is clearly toxic whereas cake is simply a type of food.
‘It also ignores the fact that food is not just there to provide energy but has an important social role.
‘Cakes in the office maintain relationships and can have an important role there.’
Dr Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and researcher at Aston Medical School in Birmingham, told MailOnline that cakes are often brought to work to bring people together — ‘something that we have missed whilst working from home’.
He said: ‘Perhaps in workplaces we need to discuss and agree limits so cakes are not daily, and they are not placed [in a way that makes] it harder for those trying to avoid temptation and eat healthily.
‘Cakes, typically by their nature, are higher in calories and sugar, so perhaps trying to bring in tasty by lower calorie versions — which could be homemade — also cutting into smaller slices can help.
‘Sharing food with others is part of human culture, part of how we share ideas and build teams, perhaps just like many things at work maybe some boundaries could be helpful.’
He said it is concerning that a food-related behaviour has been ‘linked to tobacco’.
‘This is an unhealthy view, as eating is not something that is done or not done, unlike smoking, and this approach to foods — even cakes — can lead to a dysfunctional relationship with food,’ Mr Mellor said.
Professor Jebb’s comments come as England is in the grips of an obesity crisis, with around two-thirds of over-16s overweight or obese and one in three 10 and 11-year-olds obese.
The epidemic is estimated to take up £6.1billion of the NHS budget every year due to illnesses and disease linked to people’s weight. The figure is set to rise to £9.7billion per year by 2050, as the nation becomes even fatter.
Being an unhealthy weight raises the risk of serious and life-threatening conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and strokes.
Meanwhile, passive smoking increases the risk of developing the same health conditions as smokers, such as some cancers, heart disease and strokes.
The NHS says that even those who have never smoked see their risk of lung cancer increase by around a quarter if their partner smokes.
|Cake||Calories per 100g||Sugar (g) per 100g|
|Waitrose Star Cake||394||61|
|Waitrose Fiona Cairns Golden Sponge Happy Birthday Cake||397||60.4|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Vanilla Party Cake||410||59|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Celebration Fruit Cake||356||59|
|Tesco Stars Party Cake||389||55.4|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Millionaire’s Cake||453||52|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Sultana & Cherry Cake||352||49|
|ASDA Cookies & Cream Celebration Cake||460||48|
|Waitrose Genoa Cake||380||47.9|
|Tesco Fuzzy Caterpillar Cake||404||47.8|
|Waitrose Cecil Cake||432||47.2|
|M&S Colin The Caterpillar Cake||452||46.3|
|ASDA Extra Special Sea Salted Caramel Cake||450||46|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Caramelised Biscuit Cake||439||46|
|Cadbury Flake Celebration Cake||420||45.6|
|Waitrose White Chocolate & Raspberry Cake||434||45.2|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Chocolate Party Cake||440||45|
|Tesco Finest Trillionaire Cake||462||44.9|
|Waitrose S’mores Cake||433||44.6|
|Cadbury Crunchie Celebration Cake||440||44.1|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Letty the Caterpillar Cake||413||44|
|M&S Lemon & Blueberry Drizzle Cake||390||44|
|Sainsbury’s Cookie Dough Chocolate Chip Madeira Cake||463||43.4|
|Sainsbury’s Wiggles The Caterpillar Cake||421||43.2|
|Tesco Half & Half Cake||445||43|
|Sainsbury’s Seriously White Chocolate Madeira Cake||435||42.7|
|Thorntons Sticky Toffee Celebration Cake||429||42.7|
|Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel Layer Cake||430||42.6|
|Waitrose Millionaire Layer Cake||441||42.5|
|Waitrose Cherry Madeira Cake||362||42.3|
|Waitrose Neapolitan Celebration Cake||433||42.1|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Vanilla Party CakeThe BAKERY at ASDA Mega Brownie Cake||438||42|
|Sainsbury’s Lovett’s Madeira Cake||422||41.9|
|Waitrose Fruit Cake||443||41.6|
|Waitrose Caramelised Biscuit Cakeeach||442||41.5|
|Waitrose Sticky Toffee Cake||409||40.9|
|Tesco Small Chocolate Celeb Cake Each||443||40.5|
|Tesco Iced Coffee Cake||398||40.5|
|M&S White Chocolate & Strawberry Cake||418||40.1|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Chocolate Party Cake||422||40|
|ASDA Extra Special Lemon Drizzle Cake||388||40|
|Tesco Finest Victoria Sponge CakeTesco Chocolate Brownie Bar Cake||462||39.8|
|Waitrose Chocolate Checkerboard Party Cake||441||39.8|
|Tesco Slinky Caterpillar Cake||412||39|
|ASDA Iced Madeira Cake||387||39|
|M&S Chocolate Fudge Cake||399||38.6|
|Tesco Large Chocolate Celeb Cake||425||38.5|
|Tesco Large Chocolate Celeb Cake||425||38.5|
|Sainsbury’s Lemon Cake, Taste the Difference||390||38.4|
|Waitrose Loaded Chocolate Drip Cake||433||38.3|
|Sainsbury’s Rainbow Layer Cake, Taste the Difference||434||38.2|
|Sainsbury’s Genoa Cake||331||38.1|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Half & Half Cake||438||38|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Mega Madeira Party Cake||427||38|
|ASDA Extra Special Red Velvet Cake||419||38|
|M&S Country Fruit Cake||393||38|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Lemon Cake||390||38|
|ASDA Double Chocolate Loaf Cake||377||38|
|Waitrose coffee & walnut cake||403||37.9|
|Tesco Genoa Cake||340||37.8|
|Sainsbury’s Caramelised Biscuit Layer Cake, Taste the Difference||458||37.7|
|Mcvities Jamaica Ginger Cake Each||362||37.6|
|Sainsbury’s Triple Layer Chocolate Cake||434||37.4|
|M&S Naked Red Velvet Cake||428||37.4|
|Tesco Genoa Cake EachTesco Iced Madeira Cake||378||37.4|
|Waitrose No.1 Lemon & Lime Drizzle Cake||402||37.1|
|Waitrose Hand Finished Chocolate Cake||438||37|
|ASDA Extra Special Lemon Cake||431||37|
|Aldi Holly Lane Madeira Party Cake||416||37|
|Sainsbury’s Loaded Millionaire’s Cake, Taste the Difference||427||36.6|
|Waitrose Happy Birthday Cake||429||36.3|
|Sainsbury’s Iced Madeira Cake||368||36.1|
|Waitrose No. 1 Coffee & Caramel Cake||459||35.5|
|M&S Colombian Coffee and Walnut Cake||453||35.4|
|Sainsbury’s Chocolate Cake, Taste The Difference||424||35.3|
|Sainsbury’s Coffee Iced Madeira Cake||379||35.1|
|ASDA Extra Special Coffee and Walnut Cake||436||35|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Cherry Madeira Cake||374||35|
|ASDA Extra Special Apple & Blackcurrant Crumble Cake||362||35|
|Sainsbury’s Carrot Cake, Taste the Difference||393||34.6|
|M&S Red Velvet Cake||438||34.3|
|Sainsbury’s Strawberries & Clotted Cream, Taste the Difference||402||34.3|
|Tesco Chocolate Party Cake||427||34.2|
|Waitrose Lemon Drizzle Cake||371||34.2|
|Galaxy Indulgent Chocolate Cake||434||34|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Angel Cake||406||34|
|Sainsbury’s Lemon Iced Madeira Cake||395||34|
|Sainsbury’s Chocolate Party Cake||388||33.9|
|M&S Lemon Drizzle Cake||374||33.9|
|Waitrose No.1 Victoria Sponge||419||33.8|
|Sainsbury’s Large Seriously Chocolate Cake||443||33.7|
|Mr Kipling Manor House Cake||404||33.5|
|Tesco Lemon Iced Madeira Cake||419||33.1|
|Tesco Lemon Iced Madeira Cake||419||33.1|
|Maltesers Party Cake||452||33|
|Aldi Holly Lane Chocolate Party Cake||441||33|
|Sainsbury’s Colombian Coffee Cake, Taste the Difference||420||33|
|ASDA Extra Special Sticky Toffee Cake||387||33|
|Sainsbury’s Cherry Madeira Cake||355||32.4|
|Sainsbury’s Small Seriously Chocolate Cake||439||32.3|
|Waitrose Victoria sponge cake||410||32.3|
|ASDA Mega Chocolate Celebration Cake||418||32|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Chocolate Jumbo Swiss Roll||400||32|
|Aldi Holly Lane Angel Cake||379||32|
|Aldi Mrs McGregor’s Sultana Cake||369||32|
|M&S Lightly Spiced Carrot Cake||389||31.8|
|Waitrose No.1 Carrot & Passionfruit Cake||371||31.7|
|M&S All Butter Victoria Sandwich Cake||422||31.6|
|Sainsbury’s Madeira Cake||377||31.4|
|Sainsbury’s Victoria Sponge Cake, Taste the Difference||397||31.2|
|Tesco Finest Victoria Sponge Cake||405||31|
|ASDA Extra Special Chocolate Fudge Cake||404||31|
|Tesco Ms Molly’s Lightly Fruited Cake||332||30.9|
|Tesco Coconut Sponge Cake Each||392||30.8|
|Sainsbury’s Red Velvet Cake, Taste the Difference||433||30.7|
|Waitrose No.1 Chocolate Indulgent Cake||411||30.6|
|M&S Extremely Chocolatey Party Cake||399||30.6|
|Sainsbury’s Strawberry Jam & Cream Victoria Sponge||358||30.5|
|M&S Extremely Chocolatey Birthday Cake||418||30.4|
|Aldi Holly Lane Lemon Loaf Cake||402||30|
|ASDA Extra Special Carrot Cake||381||30|
|Aldi Holly Lane Banana Loaf Cake||378||30|
|Aldi Mrs McGregor’s Cherry Cake||363||30|
|JUST ESSENTIALS by ASDA Fruit Cake||360||30|
|Sainsbury’s Lemon Loaf Cake||367||29.9|
|Bosh Luscious Lemon Cake||398||29.8|
|Waitrose Belgian chocolate cake||393||29.7|
|Sainsbury’s Banana Loaf Cake||376||29.7|
|Tesco Fresh Cream Strawberry Victoria Sponge||370||29.6|
|Mars Chocolate & Caramel Cake||415||29|
|Waitrose carrot cake||386||28.8|
|Waitrose Raspberry & Coconut Cake||373||28.1|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Madeira Cake||391||28|
|Waitrose Ginger Loaf Cake||390||27.7|
|ASDA Madeira Loaf Cake||379||27.7|
|Waitrose Delicious & Zingy Lemon Loaf Cake||397||27.2|
|Tesco Lemon Loaf Cake||395||27.2|
|Galaxy Triple Chocolate Cake||416||27|
|Galaxy Cake Triple Chocolate||416||27|
|Aldi Holly Lane Madeira Cake||380||27|
|Aldi Specially Selected Hand Finished Carrot Cake||379||27|
|M&S Strawberry Victoria Sponge Sandwich||366||27|
|Sainsbury’s Coconut & Raspberry Loaf Cake||381||26.7|
|Sainsbury’s Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Loaf Cake||400||26.5|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Walnut Cake||410||26|
|Aldi Holly Lane Walnut Cake||392||26|
|Waitrose Delicious & Sticky Banana Loaf Cake||336||25.9|
|Aldi Mrs McGregor’s Madeira Cake||381||25|
|Sainsbury’s Walnut Cake||386||24.5|
|Tesco Chocolate Cake||369||24.2|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Lemon Loaf Cake||422||24|
|The BAKERY at ASDA Banana Flavour Loaf Cake||424||23|
|Tesco Madeira Cake||381||23|
|Waitrose No.1 Spiced Pear & Apple Crumble Cake||318||22.6|
|Waitrose Golden & Buttery Madeira Loaf Cake||410||22.5|
|Aldi Mrs McGregor’s Ginger Cake||378||22|
|ASDA Baker’s Selection Fruit Loaf Cake||322||18|
|M&S Bramley Apple Victoria Sponge Sandwich||331||17.5|