Lifestyle Economics

How have we got to the stage of talking about reformulation of chocolates and puddings?

In the latest intervention from the nanny state, MPs are now calling for tax increases on sweets and salty snacks, in an aim to tackle the ‘obesity crisis’.

In practice, raising taxes and banning retailers from offering discounts on a vast range of food will inevitably lead to bigger shopping bills. Everybody will be hit, not just the obese, and people on low incomes will be hit hardest of all.

How have we got to the stage of talking about reformulation of chocolates and puddings? The anti-sugar hysteria started with talk about sugar being ‘hidden’ in pasta sauces and ready meals. Surely it is obvious that sugar is supposed to be in confectionery and equally obvious that people who are trying to lose weight should give it the swerve.

Moreover, a ‘whole systems approach’ means trying lots of things that don’t work in the hope that they will somehow work if combined. Note that the Amsterdam approach that Sarah Wollaston MP’s committee is lauding did not involve any of the policies that they are proposing. She seems uninterested in evidence of efficacy or the negative consequences that will ensue.

‘Buy One Get One Free’ tactics are a useful way for supermarkets to clear stock before it goes out of date and are a good way for manufacturers to launch new products. The benefit to the consumer is, quite obviously, savings on their shopping bill.

An advertising ban would be extremely negative for the non-BBC broadcast media and would be devastating for the rest of the media, plus culture and sport, if it were extended.

Extending it to all media will doubtless be Wollaston’s next demand if the government caves in this time. The agenda is clearly to introduce tobacco-style regulation on all food and drink that doesn’t meet the standards of the food nannies.

Wollaston appears to be ignorant of the fact that food labelling is an EU competence. The UK cannot unilaterally legislate to label food products. This is basic stuff that her committee should have grasped by now.

Head of Lifestyle Economics, IEA

Christopher Snowdon is the Head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA. He is the author of The Art of Suppression, The Spirit Level Delusion and Velvet Glove; Iron Fist. His work focuses on pleasure, prohibition and dodgy statistics. He has authored a number of papers, including "Sock Puppets", "Euro Puppets", "The Proof of the Pudding", "The Crack Cocaine of Gambling" and "Free Market Solutions in Health".

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