Friday, 9 November 2007

Should food choices be made for us?

This is a subject that has been coming up regularly recently at least around here. There was the news articles about a report saying we should all be buying UHT milk, then a discussion with friends about if we should be only sold the 'healthy' options to counter the growth in obese people and now this article which suggests supermarkets should be encouraged to make choices for us.

My first reaction is No way I don't want someone else making such choices for me but when I think properly about it that isn't totally true. Ideally what I want is all the facts so I can make an informed decision and if a shop was making the choices the way i wanted them made I'd have no problem with it. Currently, for instance I get vegs from a local organic shop because I want organic veg and I know and trust the shop owner, even if I didn't know him organic means something specific which I can pretty much know will be attired to if it is labelled as such here.

I think the problem comes for me when the choice is taken from me completely or if it is being made by people or groups I don't fully trust and that includes the government. After all how can I trust a government who is meant to represent the people and yet is determined to allow GM crops to be grown here in 2009 even when the vast majority of the people of the country are against it and they said not so long ago they didn't have any plans to allow it in the foreseeable future. I'm not going into that particular subject any farther in this post though.

So back to choices. In principle I have no problems with retail companies having guildlines about what they will and will not buy if it is things like only buying from fair trade sources or so forth. That as a principle is something I can support and encourage, if it is to improve the lifes of others or to stop an animal being driven to extinction such as a ban on ivory.

I think the problem comes for me when it is things like telling me what I can and can't eat. Inform me fine, educate everyone fine and something we need to do more of but choosing for me that I will only be able to buy UHT milk no thanks, yes I know the argument about UHT is it will cut down the amount of energy needed for refrigeration (ie ecological) but I buy milk direct not through a supermarket so the equation is very different for me. In the discussion with friends someone asked why they sold several different types of the same margarine one lower fat that the other why didn't they sell only the healthy one. I think that hits the point for me.. they were very much assuming the lower fat one was more healthy become it was lower fat where as I don't believe it is that simple. Lower fat options are often higher in sugar, more processed and so on which can be as bad. Many drinks targeted at kids here proudly state they are sugar free BUT they have sweeteners in them which my son reacts badly to so if these so call healthy drinks were the only option what does he drink?

It is the nanny state attitude I worry about.. the view we the consumer don't have the ability to make the right choices ourselves so rather than taking the harder but ulitmently better path of educating people it is similar to make the choices for us but one choice is not always right for everyone. I do want more information and more accountability however.. a pipe dream? possibly but without dreams nothing worth wild ever happens.


  1. Hmm... methinks there's a balance in there, and it's going to be a difficult one to achieve. We've recently moved abroad (to Scotland, from near San Francisco), and we're finding that the balance is strangely more towards healthy food over here than it was in California! The products here just don't have as much salt, for one thing, and that's across the board. It's strange ... and it's the nanny state. People still eat poorly, because that's their choice, but they've got to work a bit harder to get those poor choices.

  2. Excellent post and very very true. Educate and then leave to make choices...and stop allowing stupid lawsuits. You can't sue mcdonalds because you are fat any more than you can sue your architect because your house is messy.