Some splendid nannying may be in the offing, but it is at least research based nannying. According to The Times, ‘Academics find smaller plates hold less food.’ That’s a real ‘No shit Sherlock’ result isn’t it?

To be fair, that’s not quite what the researchers said. They said that reducing the size of tableware and glasses reduces the amount that people eat. It’s at this point the lead researcher, Theresa Marteau, who is professor of behaviour and health at Cambridge, goes bonkers. She’s really out there where the air is thin.

Her thinking? Schools, hospitals, and other public institutions should reduce the size of their tableware immediately. This, you’ll be interested to know, includes the use of daintier cutlery to encourage people to take smaller mouthfuls. Given that a very high percentage of patients in hospitals are already malnourished and don’t obtain enough calories, this is akin to a cull on the elderly and infirm, though I suppose it might be a politically acceptable way to reduce demand on the ‘overstretched NHS’ so beloved of politicians.

Then she ascends even further into the stratosphere of impracticality. Laws may be needed to make the private sector follow suit. She says smaller plates should be the default setting in restaurants, and reckons the sale of larger tableware should be restricted.

This is babbling from the sickbed. Firstly, an awful lot of swanky restaurants have such rigid portion control you get outside and go for a burger, because you haven’t had enough to keep body and soul together.

Then there’s the problem of how you monitor and regulate things. Crack teams of Cutlery Cops? Plate Police equipped with size gauges like those they use in airports to make you put your cabin luggage in the hold? Soupbowl SWAT squads? It’s completely unpoliceable. And how do you stop people at a buffet, for example, from going back for more?

When you legislate against the supply of something it doesn’t always work the way you want it to. The Volstead Act in the US failed to curb drinking. The UK’s already draconian drugs laws haven’t made a dent in the problem of drug abuse, unlike Portugal where complete decriminalisation had led to a decrease in overall drug use. All that happens when you make a market illegal is that it gets taken over by brigands and driven underground.

Mind you, if that did happen, it would bring an interesting new perspective to the ideas of pot smuggling and knife crime.

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