Friday 4 May 2012

Fake charity wants sweetie display ban

On the problems with tobacco display bans and plain packaging is that they are rooted in the idea that the very sight of a product constitutes advertising. This is very questionable logic, but it allows campaigners to demand that all tobacco branding be hidden from view.

As ever, what is good for the anti-smokers is good for single issue campaigners of any hue. It is logically inconsistent to remove tobacco from view while leaving other products - such as 'junk food' and alcohol - that cannot be advertised to children to remain on display.

This has not gone unnoticed by a fake charity called Sustain which is making moves in the direction of a sweetie display ban.

Our survey of 48 branches of fourteen national supermarkets and high street chains found that food was regularly displayed at the checkouts and in the queuing areas, and the vast majority of food promoted was unhealthy.

In many cases, the food was positioned to attract the attention of children – and was often within their reach – much to the annoyance of parents we asked.

One such wretched parent is quoted by the BBC:

Amanda Flint, a mother of four and supporter of the campaign, said: "Shopping with my kids is hard enough as it is. So to be subjected to rows of sweets and chocolates at the checkout is maddening. I want it to be easier to choose healthy options for my family."

You can surely guess where this is heading...

The history of campaigning on this issue suggests that retailers are unable or unwilling to stop voluntarily promoting junk food in their stores in this way. The Children’s Food Campaign is therefore calling for robust Government action to help parents and bring an end to this type of marketing of junk food to children.

Specifically, these state-funded activists want to see...

The Advertising Standards Authority should extend its remit to include in-store positioning of products and all point-of-sale marketing.

We call on the government to make removing unhealthy products from checkouts an integral part of its Responsibility Deal. 

It would be interesting to see what the ASA has to say about this. If the "positioning" of products is classed as advertising, it will give the government the power to dictate the layout of all shops—for the sake of the chiiildren, of course. And since the government has stupidly set the ball rolling by banning the advertising of so-called junk food to children, the only logical conclusion can be a ban on shops displaying sweets anywhere a child might see them—ie. everywhere—ultimately followed by plain packaging.

It is not the advertising of these products that the food faddists at Sustain find intolerable, but the products themselves. For them, a display ban at the point-of-sale would be step forward, but "the next logical step" would inevitably follow. And, in fairness to them, it is a perfectly logical and consistent progression now that the idiot politicians have decided that (a) children shouldn't see "unhealthy" food, and (b) it is appropriate for the state to intervene.

Let's get a few things straight before we continue down this slippery slope. Firstly, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—wrong with kids eating, letting alone seeing, sweets.

Secondly, there is no such thing as junk food. There may be junk diets, but food either has nutritional value or it does not. Sugar and salt are not only harmless, they are essential.

Thirdly, children generally don't buy their own food and if they have the sort of pathetic parents who buckle to "pester power", they are going to have bigger problems in life than being bought a bag of wine gums.

Fourthly, if you are the sort of parent who (as Sustain claim) finds the sight of sweets at the check-out annoying, may I suggest you fill in one of those comment forms the supermarkets so helpfully provide and do your shopping in a place that is more to your liking, preferably in a different hemisphere.

Fifthly, and most importantly, it is no business of the government how many sweets people eat or where a shopkeeper chooses to display them.

That is all.


Bill said...

This one might just be one that wakes enough people up so 'go for it nanny', say I.

Anonymous said...

I have on occasion seen at one of the major retail chain stores in the states they will voluntarily by private choice decide to put in a special check-out line that claims to have no candies and sweets to attract the children, for those parents who wish to use such a line. That gives those parents who haven't the backbone to say "no" a special checkout line just for them, without having to enforce it upon everyone else or requiring government intervention to impose draconian legislation up on private retailers.

Christopher Snowdon said...


A sensible free market solution to a trivial problem. Sustain will hate it.


Anonymous said...

Not enough Chris.
"muuuuuuuummmmmmm but I want to use this checkout, it has all those attractive, shiny, bright coloured sweetie packets "
No compromise is the only answer, if you give them an inch etcetc

Anonymous said...

Ah yes it goes like this, on the basis that something is bad for you the propaganda starts. What is "bad" in this context? It is a vague, ephemeral notion linked to an obsessive belief in the potential for immortal life rooted, probably in the judeo-christian tradition. Once a "risk" value has been assigned to the food, drink, activity or habit a strategy for turning it into a socially unacceptable consumption or behaviour is determined. You don't have to look very hard or very far to find the precedents for this, just lean back and admire how the church turned sex into a vile, ugly vice and you have all the exemplars you need. It started with alcohol, it failed there, but it just slid into the woodwork to await its next opportunity and along came the tobacco and health scam. Tobacco as an evil (and therefore a sin) hit big, especially as the tobacco industry lied and obfuscated at every opportunity. In the wake of the successful demonisation of the tobacco "sin" we will have the following. Food, except for the purposes of survival, drink except for the purposes of essential hydration, salt because it is there, fat because it is pleasurable to eat, sugar because it is enjoyable, sex, except for the purposes of procreation because the zealots aren't getting any, the list never ends, the "steps" are never enough, the believers are never satisfied, there is always another ban, prohibition, strategy or improvement to be aimed for. The whole notion of the perfectability of humanity is ugly, filthy and vile. What you are seeing is a re-emergence of the mind set that created the inquisition, the first eugenesists. There is nothing wrong with consuming tobacco, salt, sugar, fat, alcohol or anything else that pleases and amuses you. It isn't the commodity or the risk that these people are after it is the fact that you enjoy them that provokes their desire to take them away from you.

Anonymous said...

Here's what they want. They want mandatory monthly health check-ups and food by prescription only, orders filled (in plain standardized packaging) by a licensed pharmanutritionist. They'll get what they want if we delay the revolution.

Trooper Thompson said...

@ Anon,

"Ah yes it goes like this, on the basis that something is bad for you the propaganda starts..."

This is all very interesting, but hardly relevant. The problem has nothing to do with the Spanish Inquisition.

Anonymous said...

Sustain receives a few hundred thousand from the GLA ( Greater London Assembly ) as well as a huge bung from the National Lottery. Very little of their income comes from private donations from individuals. Check out their accounts on the Charity Commission web site - they are charity No 101 8643.

malcolm said...

The Children's Food Campaign is funded by a grant from the British Heart Foundation, not taxpayer money. You could have found that out by simply looking on the front page of the campaign's website.

We need much less sugar and salt in our diet than you'd think; and only in rare circumstances would you not be getting enough from that which is naturally occurring in foods, rather than of the added variety.

It's not about stopping people have treats, or over-indulging if they really want to. It is about evening things up for parents against the onslaught from the food industry of unhealthy food which has detrimentally changed our diets, our waistlines and our health. Incidentally, those health costs are passed onto taxpayers, via a hugely increased NHS bill. So reducing obesity may save money as well as lives.