Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Buy one, get one free

Yesterday's news...

Food bank charity gives record level of supplies

The biggest network of food banks in the UK says it provided record levels of "emergency food supplies" last year.

The annual figures from the Trussell Trust charity show a 13% increase, providing 1.3 million three-day food packages for "people in crisis".

Today's news...

Buy-one-get-one-free deals on junk food are set to be banned after opposition parties gave Theresa May their backing to tackle the obesity crisis.

Food bank use is at an all time high, so let's ban food discounts. Hmm.

Admittedly, food bank use is a very poor proxy for food prices, poverty or anything other than the number of food banks that are open, but it is difficult to see how the problem of 'food poverty' will be alleviated by making people pay more for their food (see also: the sugar tax).

I was on the radio this morning with the meddlesome tyrant Malcolm Clark who used to be at the Children's Food Campaign but who now seems to be at Cancer Research UK (CRUK seems to be housing more and more nanny state lobbyists these days). He asked why supermarkets mostly discount 'junk food' and not 'healthy' food. There are two answers.

Firstly, there is no such think as 'junk food'. It is a campaigner's slogan, not a legal definition. If the government introduced this ban, it would apply to HFSS - food that is high in salt, sugar or fat. This is a very broad category that includes jam, cheese, bacon and lots of other things that normal people do not consider 'junk'.


It is no wonder that most BOGOF deals apply to products when the category is so broad - and Public Health England is currently trying to broaden it even further in case the government introduces a watershed advertising ban.

Secondly, fruit, vegetables, rice, pasta etc. are extremely cheap all the year round and so there is little scope to discount them further. Staple foods are always cheap, but BOGOFs are useful for dealing with gluts and promoting new brands.

A ban on BOGOFs would be very easy to get around. The shop could simply sell the products at half price (or with a 40 per cent discount - whatever produced the same sales result). Campaigners would then demand that this 'loophole' be closed and we would be on our way to state control of food pricing.

The proposal has made the front pages today because Jamie Oliver has co-ordinated a letter to the Prime Minister with his usual rubbish about children dying before their parents unless the government gets to grips with the non-existent epidemic of childhood obesity.

The letter has been timed to coincide with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's bit of agitprop which will be broadcast tonight. It has been signed by the leaders of all the main opposition parties: Jeremy Corbyn, Vince Cable, Caroline Lucas, Nicola Sturgeon. If the Conservatives go along with it, it will demonstrate, once again, the futility of voting for a supposedly free market party and prove that we are governed by a monolithic political class in hock to millionaire activists.

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