Thursday 27 October 2022

Nature abhors a vacuum

From the beginning of October, new regulations were introduced in England to restrict the display and promotion of HFSS foods (“high in fat, sugar and salt”) in larger shops. While this has been disingenuously promoted as only affecting “junk food”, in fact it covers a huge swathe of everyday food items including chocolate, sweets, crisps, cereals, cakes, biscuits, sausages, pies, cooked meats and full-fat dairy produce. It means that such products can no longer be displayed on aisle ends or free-standing islands, and have to be confined to the body of aisles.

The purported objective is to reduce the rate of obesity, although there is little evidence that it is likely to prove effective. Experience shows that advertising and promotion may affect product choice, but have little impact on the total quantity purchased. And, even if it did work to some extent, should we really be treating adult consumers like naughty children who cannot control their urges? As stated by Tom Harris in this article, which in general has been very much superseded by events:

I must accept that no one forces me to eat pizza or Mars Bars; those are my choices, made by an adult with the full knowledge of the consequences. To assume that other, mostly poorer citizens have no such agency strikes me as unforgivably patronising.
However, it has come into force, and shops have to rejig their displays to comply and find something else to replace the HFSS items. One obvious candidate is alcoholic drinks, which are not covered by the same restrictions, and Grocery Gazette reports a significant increase in such displays, something borne out by my own observation. Instead of walking in through the door and being confronted with a pyramid of Quality Street and Celebrations tubs, you will now find a pile of Corona and Madri packs. This will inevitably raise the hackles of the public health lobby, leading to them stepping up their campaign for further curbs on the placement of alcoholic drinks, something that has already been done in the Irish Republic.

At the time of the smoking ban fifteen years ago, I and many other of its opponents argued strongly that similar restrictions would inevitably be applied to alcoholic drinks sooner or later. However, in practice very little has happened in that direction, although the Irish Republic and other parts of the UK have gone somewhat further down the road than England. I wrote about this at the beginning of 2020.

What I would never have predicted is that so much of the energy of public health lobbyists would be redirected towards so-called “unhealthy” food. And there is more to come, with severe restrictions on the online advertising of HFSS products to come next year, which will make it very difficult for smaller producers to promote their businesses. So far, alcohol has escaped relatively lightly. But it would be very complacent to assume that will always be the case.


  1. My local Sainsbury's gondola ends are chock full of alcohol offers now. It's almost as if they're sticking two fingers up at the nanny statists.

  2. There's nothing wrong with high fat. Eggs, offal, nuts are ridiculous to be lumped in with biscuits, cakes, etc.

    I'd put a tax on beige food!

  3. With the current political move towards small government this nonsense will soon stop.
    Along with other nanny state laws forced on us by the EU.

    1. I thought any move towards smaller government came to an end last week :P

    2. "Move towards smaller government" - where is this happening?

  4. All about that Bass28 October 2022 at 07:26

    The government should stop supermarkets displaying boxes of Corona & Madri.

    They should instead have a sign instructing them to drink cask ale in a pub next to a display of beer guides so they might find a camra pub and not one of them dreadful fosters pubs.

  5. Corona and Madri at home is often better now than the pitiful cask offering.

  6. Professor Pie-Tin30 October 2022 at 13:54

    Talking of cask offerings I always look forward to this time of year for the appearance of winter warmers. I'm not usually one for ' humourous ' beer names but I thought Fall's Over from the Exeter Brewery was quite clever and it's a bloomin' lovely beer - all malty and nutty. My local keeps its four rotating cask taps in fantastic nick - the popular ones go within 24 hours and if any are not gone in three days they're hoicked off sale. Speaking personally I cannot remember the last time I stopped at any supermarket tower of booze and bought some. Thatcher's Gold, Stella, Heineken ? Do I look like a chav ?


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