Friday 8 March 2019

Surely they don’t mean us

Earlier this week, I reported on how craft beer enthusiasts were outraged at being subject to the same restrictions on large containers of strong beers than were intended to deal with products favoured by problem drinkers. Now much the same is happening in the world of food.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has recently imposed a ban on any adverts for “junk food” being displayed on the Tube network. This is a grossly objectionable and illiberal measure which is preventing the advertising of perfectly legal products that are enjoyed by millions. Even if the supposed justification was valid, it is in any case unlikely to have any significant effect. It is just another case of “something must be done”.

The problem is that the ban is using the definition of “HFSS” food, that is food that is high in fat, salt or sugar. This includes many items than most people would regard as natural and wholesome, such as orange juice, butter, full-fat cheese and milk, and many meat products including bacon. So a company called Farmdrop who supply mixed boxes of supposedly natural fair trade foods found that they had fallen foul of this by showing a photo including bacon and butter. They wrote about it in pretty aggrieved terms on their blog:

Naturally, we were pretty shocked that a picture of some fresh groceries with a healthy mixture of fruits and vegetables, dairy, eggs and cupboard staples would flout TfL’s new junk food rules. But it turns out that TfL score foods individually according to a nutrient profiling model created by the Government. It’s a pretty crude measure and means that foods you would still think of as junk, like fizzy drinks with artificial sweeteners or low-fat fried foods, could in some scenarios comply with the new regulations.

Take McDonald’s. Last year, the fast-food chain was allowed to run a Happy Meal advert during children’s television and it passed the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA’s) standards for healthy food, which are the same standards TfL are now using for the junk food ban. According to the ASA, a McDonald’s Happy Meal is not a junk food product because 80% of the mains, and 100% of the sides are non-HFSS. But swapping out sugar for a sweetener or fruit for chips, doesn’t detract from the fact that this is still a fast food company promoting meals with fried foods to kids.

Yet they still say they support the ban on principle, just not when it happens to apply to them. Of course, “junk food” is a an extremely vague and subjective concept, and often seems to add up to nothing more than “food that working-class people enjoy”. This attitude is satirised in another Daily Mash article entitled It’s not a takeaway when we do it, say middle class people. As has very wisely been said, there is no such thing as junk food, only junk diets.

As with potentially “harmful” alcoholic drinks, any attempt to produce a hard and fast definition of “junk food” is inevitably going to be a very broad brush that will sweep up many products that nobody would have considered fell within that category. Again following the example of alcohol, maybe the answer is to employ Jamie Oliver to decide what is healthy middle-class gourmet fare, and what is artery-furring plebeian slop.

And the question must be asked whether it would be a better use of Sadiq Khan’s time and energy to concentrate on the epidemic of lethal knife crime sweeping the capital rather than engaging in such pointless and illiberal gesture politics.


  1. When these snobbish sanctimonious middle class do gooders, who like to sneer at the choices made by others, come a cropper when they realise when it comes down to the rules they cheered on but thought were for others, their pancetta is just bacon or their craft ipa is just beer, my reaction is similar to the character in the Simpson who points and says "Ha Ha"

    1. While it's impossible to avoid a touch of Schadenfreude, it's important to remember that the measures they're kicking against, especially this one, are objectionable in general.

    2. *All* Authoritarianism is objectionable. Whether one is a Middle Class Islingtonian Dick or a Pure-bred Working Class Scumeater, or a Disingenuous Troll-cocked Hypocrite that is one of the above masquerading as t'other for cheap street cred.

      It doesn't matter. No single group has a monopoly on illiberalism. Or indeed on snobbery.

    3. Touched a nerve there, eh, chubster?

  2. Sadiq Khan was raised in a council flat in Earlsfield. That said, this is not one of the best-thought-through of ideas on the face of it.

    1. Has he ever had a well-thought-out idea?

    2. Sadiq Kahn epitomises that old parody of the Red Flag..
      The working class can kiss my a*se
      I'v got the cabinet job at last

    3. There are some figures in this week's Spectator showing that the rate of knife crime per 100,000 population is more than twice as much in London as in any other region of the country, so the assertion that it's such a massive problem everywhere doesn't hold water.

    4. I am slightly puzzled that so much is made of it being KNIFE crime. It is GBH or murder and the weapon is not really relevant. If, as many right wingers suggest, we made carrying a knife a capital offence and banned the sale of knives then the gang fighters would simply shift to another weapon such as a baseball bat or a sharpened screwdriver.

  3. Professor Pie-Tin8 March 2019 at 14:50

    And the real elephant in the room of these woke politicians like Sadiq Khan and the rest spending their days arguing whether it's racist to call Diane Abbott coloured instead of a person of colour is that the vast majority of victims and perpetrators of knife crime in London are black or recently arrived ethnic minorities.
    The knife epidemic is BAME-centred obsession with gangs,weapons,drugs and rap/drill music that is replicated in every major city in North America.
    And the spread of this plague is virulent.
    I live in a sleepy town close to a major city in Ireland.
    Two weekends ago the town was flooded by police after a gang of black youths arrived from the City to take on a gang of local black youths - this in a town that hadn't had a single black resident a decade ago before " economic " migrants started arriving from Africa.
    Last week I was walking the dog past a kids' playground and heard a teenage black girl address her Irish mates as " niggas " in some South Central LA-style gang patois.
    In Ireland,FFS !

    1. Perceptions can vary from the facts:

      Even that horror is paltry, compared with the roll for the pro-rata US's gun deaths alone.

    2. Comparing the situation in the US with London is all a bit "tu quoque", isn't it? Things may be worse in the US, but it doesn't make what's happening in London remotely acceptable.

  4. Professor Pie-Tin8 March 2019 at 22:07

    About 30 years ago I used to own a mews cottage in a delightful cul-de-sac in Fulham called Lanfrey Place.
    About 100 yards away was a gnarly predominantly black housing estate - my house was defended like Fort Knox because the whole street was seen as rich pickings.
    Yesterday afternoon a young black kid was chased into the cul-de-sac and stabbed to death right outside my old front door.
    It was the fourth attempt on his life.
    Four people have been arrested - I guarantee all are black and all come from that gnarly estate.
    Maybe it's a perception.
    But I doubt it.

    1. Yes, look at the pictures of the victims, they tell the stories of all the gnarly estates, black and non-black. You could work out the proportions. My previous point about the US was admittedly whataboutery, but a dramatic saving of life would be possible there by passing a few simple laws on guns. The UK position is much more complex, but for some reason, opprobrium is heaped on those doing their best without such straightforward answers. I'm sure that folk will work that out though.

    2. Professor Pie-Tin9 March 2019 at 16:25

      Except that large numbers of white people own guns as well and they don't seem to murder each other in quite the same numbers as blacks people do.
      The murder rate among African-Americans in the US is nearly quadruple that of the national average.
      The single greatest cause of death for young black men between the ages of 18 and 35 is not disease or road accidents but murder by another black person.

    3. Sorry, but you are presenting a very limited perspective. Economic situations are also much worse off for African-American people especially young men. You can't selectively choose race as your only variable. The problem is much more complex than you are assuming. (Yes, I live over here and have seen a lot more about it than you.) The poverty rate among African-Americans is almost three times that of Caucasians. I know there is a larger difference in gun violence percentages by race. You need to change your lake for an ocean... And for the record most of our large gun violence incidents are perpetrated by whites. Often racist middle aged men or middle class white young men...

    4. Professor Pie-Tin12 March 2019 at 16:02

      Interesting that murder rates among Spanish and Latin Americans - many of them poor and many recently-arrived immigrants - do not bear any comparison with that of blacks yet poverty levels are exactly the same.
      Likewise immigrants from other ethnic backgrounds who arrive in the States without a pot to piss in but don't immediately invest in a gun and start drug dealing.
      Could it be that there just isn't the gun/rap/drug culture amongst them and there are fewer single mothers left bringing up families ?

    5. Drug dealing and single parent homes are certainly not a single race issue in the US. Not sure what happened in your life that you feel this level of anger towards one race.

    6. This is getting seriously off topic, but I don't think it does anyone any favours to pretend that certain issues affect all ethnic groups equally.

  5. The Stafford Mudgie10 March 2019 at 13:47

    It's not really relevant but few passengers on the underground now look as if they're the working classes most at risk of eating junk food.

  6. @Curmudgeon: O/T - care to look at this site as a candidate for your sidebar bloglist?


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