The Royal Society for Public Health is out on day release from the asylum again. You may remember that back in November 2014 they had this lunatic idea that there was a ‘clear public appetite’ for the calorific content of alcoholic drinks to be shown on packaging.
This was utter twaddle then and it remains so now. There is no such appetite at all. But this has not deterred the RSPH, which clearly has money to burn from its charitable status, and has now come up with a new scheme to nanny the population, and this one is just as much of a non-starter.
It’s recommending that food labels should show how to burn off the calories contained in the food. There’s a claim that a poll of 2000 people showed 63% to be in favour this change to food labels. Somehow I doubt that, but we’ll let it stand for now.
Just over 53% thought that labels of this sort would persuade them to do more exercise, eat less, or choose healthier products. I doubt that too.
There’s also a claim that people were three times as likely to say they would take more exercise after viewing ‘activity equivalent’ labels than the current traffic light labelling. Now that might be a true figure, but the critical thing is that that’s what people said. Do you really think that would translate into action? I’m pretty sure I don’t.
Shirley Cramer, the chief exec of the RSPH, trots out the usual goobledegook you expect from someone with a vested interest in making it look as if she has a useful job.
‘Although nutritional information on food and drink packaging has improved, it is evident that it isn’t working as well as it could to support the public in making healthy choices.’
The word ‘choices’ in this context always make my heart sink. If you’re a salad dodger, changed labels aren’t going to make a shred of difference to your buying patterns. If you’re of the organic quinoa and spring water school of thought, you’ve already made your choices.
All that would happen is that the consumers will get stuck with the bill for the changes, because you can guarantee it won’t be the manufacturers taking a cut to their profits for this pointless exercise There’s also the problematic aspect of the size of the packaging. I already have trouble reading the miniscule typeface on most packaging. To squeeze even more information on, you need bigger labels. The size of the packaging increases at a time we’re all being told to reduce the amount of waste we generate.