Wednesday 5 June 2019

Plain packaging for food, part 94

The IPPR, a left-wing think tank, got a lot of media attention yesterday when they called for plain packaging of sweets, cakes, crisps etc. Their report is an intellectually thin document with multiple typos (they write a lot about confectionery but rarely spell it correctly) and none of the analysis that you might expect from a think tank.

If you're going to propose Soviet-style regulation of the food supply, you need to answer a few basic questions. What is the source of the problem you are trying to solve? What is the likelihood that your policies solve it? What are the costs? What are the benefits?

The IPPR doesn't even ask those questions. The policy conclusions seem to have been cobbled together down the pub, mainly borrowing ideas that have been tried (and failed) in tobacco control.

I doubt the IPPR is particularly interested in obesity, but it is interested in having a go at capitalism, so it makes sense for them to get into bed with the 'public health' lobby. It describes plain packaging for food as a “challenge to the power of corporate manufacturers”, so that's nice.

The plain packs stuff got the headlines but other policies proposed were equally bizarre and illiberal. They want to 'extend the smoking ban to all public places' which presumably means banning smoking outdoors. They want to raise the smoking age to 21. They want to not only prevent new fast food shops opening near schools but shut down existing fast food shops to meet their target of 'no fast food restaurants with [sic] 0.1 miles of schools in England.' And they want to extend the sugar tax to various foods which displease them.

Pretty grim stuff, but good clickbait for the IPPR and another vindication for those of us who warned that this would happen.

I've written about it for The Sun today...

Those of us who opposed the sugar levy warned that the nanny state zealots would soon demand similar taxes on a range of everyday food products.

Similarly, we opposed plain packaging for tobacco because it would create a slippery slope, with food, soft drinks and alcohol next in the firing line.

A report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) proved the naysayers correct.

Not only are they calling for plain packaging for sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks, the IPPR is calling for tobacco-style sin taxes on cakes and confectionery, plus an extensive advertising ban for anything that the Government considers to be high in fat, sugar or salt.

Some of the IPPR’s justifications for these Stalinist diktats border on the ­surreal.

They claim that plain packaging for so-called “junk food” will “level the playing field between confectionary [sic] products and fruit and vegetables”, as if children would be eating turnips rather than chocolate bars if it weren’t for colourful wrappers.

Do read it all.

The Sun's leader is pretty solid...

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