From the U.K. — and a Conservative government, at that. “Pizzas must shrink or lose their toppings under Government plans to cap the calories in thousands of meals sold in restaurants and supermarkets. Pies, ready meals and sandwiches will also be subject to the new proposed calorie limits…. Under the draft proposals, a standard pizza for one should contain no more than 928 calories – far less than many sold by takeaways, restaurants and shops.” For the moment the restrictions would not be mandatory, but in a parallel initiative concerning sweet foods failures to meet the targets “have prompted warnings from ministers that tougher steps may be taken.”
If you figured the British Medical Journal would take the side of individual liberty against the nanny state, you might soon be fated to miss the point.
Government often makes a show of regulating business when its real aim is to regulate what consumers or citizens do. When direct coercion seems “brutal, unfair, and wrong… Switching to indirect coercion is a shrewd way for government to sedate our moral intuition.” Some examples that come to mind: campaigns that at base aim to regulate consumers’ eating and drinking choices instead often take the form of campaigns against manufacturers and sellers of food and drink, who as targets are inevitably less humanized and sympathetic. [Bryan Caplan]
Advocates claiming the mantle of public health would like to introduce scary new warnings on foods high in sugar, salt, or fat, and restrict marketing, as by banning the use of cartoon characters. For years they’ve been trying to advance their schemes through the use of international organizations and institutions, but now the United States, or at least its federal government, has begun pushing back. The New York Times doesn’t like that one bit and my latest Cato post examines the difference between what a principled position might look like, and the position the Times actually takes. Excerpt:
Like international organizations, treaty administration bodies tend to draw for guidance on an elite stratum of professional diplomats, conference-goers, NGO and nonprofit specialists, and so forth, most of whom are relatively insulated from any pushback in public opinion. That might be a good reason to minimize the role of transnational panels in governance where not absolutely necessary. It is not a good reason to adopt the Times’s implicit position on lobbying for international standards, which is that it’s fine when done by our side but illegitimate when done by yours.
Related: Good piece on sugar/fat wars, with one proviso: when it’s Stanton Glantz spreading a tale, don’t just call it “University of California” [David Merritt Johns and Gerald M. Oppenheimer, Slate]
Public Health England “is ‘demanding’ a calorie-cap on supermarket ready meals that would limit breakfasts to 400 calories and lunches and dinners to 600 calories each.” That’s among numerous nanny-state initiatives under way in the United Kingdom, including stringent guidelines on individual drinking and the introduction of a sugary drinks tax. Madsen Pirie, Adam Smith Institute:
It is not really government’s job to make people feel miserable, and it is certainly no business of theirs to legislate what people may or may not eat. The fact that the recommended limits are so low is justified by officials on the grounds that people will always exceed recommendations, so ultra-low ones will make them exceed to tolerable rather than intolerable levels. The problem with this approach is that the ultra-low targets simply discredit the whole process of recommendation. …
There is a very good case for proposing that government should stop doing this altogether. There is plenty of good medical advice that people can read in the press, and most people are aware of the ancient dictum, “Nothing to excess.” Most of us, I suspect, would like to indulge ourselves occasionally without having official bullies making us feel bad about doing so.
“Wyoming has the most freedom from paternalism, while New York is the most paternalistic state.” 50-state survey [Russell Sobel and Joshua Hall, Mercatus Center] From: “For Your Own Good: Taxes, Paternalism, and Fiscal Discrimination in the Twenty-First Century,” new Mercatus book on sin taxes edited by Adam Hoffer and Todd Nesbit.
- “What’re You In For?” “Lemonade.” A Boston professor wants sugary drinks handled the same way as alcohol [my new Cato post]
- Hershey, many other firms sued over “slack fill” packaging by guy who wrote book entitled “Sue and Grow Rich” [John O’Brien, Legal NewsLine]
- What if we forced food to be more local? The unintended consequences might surprise you [Jayson Lusk]
- “Shaking up the Conventional Wisdom on Salt” [Michelle Minton, CEI, in January]
- Demands in U.K. to put “junk food” in plain packaging the way some countries require for cigarettes [Trevor Little, World Trademark Review] Another demand of U.K. anti-food campaigners: stop discounting and offering deals on snacks and candies [BBC]
- Missed from 2011: FDA vetoes culinary use of the subtle tonka bean, but is it actually any more toxic than nutmeg? [Ike DeLorenzo, The Atlantic]
A genuine headline at the BBC. “In 2010, China reintroduced mandatory exercises twice a day at state-owned companies after a three-year gap,” it notes helpfully. “Set up by the Communist Party, they had previously been running since the 1950s, with state radio broadcasting music at 10:00 and 15:00 for workers to do their set exercises.”
- U.K.: “People who have 2 or 3 drinks a night will be sent for liver scans under plans to crack down on ‘heavy drinking'” [Katie Gibbons, The Times via Christopher Snowdon, who comments: “The line between healthcare and punishment begins to blur.”]
- Why was Sofia Vergara sued in Louisiana? It’s the only state that accords status to an embryo as “juridical person” [Naomi Cahn, Concurring Opinions]
- Scope-of-practice restrictions for certified nurse midwives primarily serve as barriers to practice rather than having effect on health outcomes [Charles Hughes, Cato]
- Has veterinary care in US avoided the upward cost pressures of (human) health care, as is often claimed? Maybe not [Arnold Kling]
- “New Zealand to compensate organ donors” [Alex Tabarrok, Ilya Somin] Federal fisc could save billions in dialysis outlays by adopting reforms along similar lines [Sally Satel, Forbes]
- Hospital takes baby to wrong mom for nursing, upwards of $50,000 balm sought [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]