UK supermarket meals could face calorie limits to combat obesity

Bill Wirtz, policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, said: “The intentions of PHE are understandable, but rectifying the bad nutritional habits and lack of exercise of some with outright bans for others is just blatantly unfair.”

He added: “Nobody is denying that we could all lose weight by only living on water and crispbread, but being a free society means being able to enjoy a pizza, a burger or an ice cream when you like. Educating rather than banning should be our aim.

“Ultimately it’s the government that needs to make the decisions regarding these proposed bans on food items. Even a simple execution of PHE’s recommendations would be [a] clear message that this government does not believe in informed and responsible consumers.”

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

CCC calls calorie limits ‘a major threat to consumer choice’

PACKAGING NEWS: Bill Wirtz, policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said that the UK government needs to step in. “The intentions of PHE are understandable, but rectifying the bad nutritional habits and lack of exercise of some with outright bans for others is just blatantly unfair,” said Wirtz.

“In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. It’s exercise many people are lacking.

“Nobody is denying that we could all lose weight by only living on water and crispbread, but being a free society means being able to enjoy a pizza, a burger or an ice-cream when you like. Educating rather than banning should be our aim.

“Ultimately it’s the government that needs to make the decisions regarding these proposed bans on food items. Even a simple execution of PHE’s recommendations would be clear message that this government does not believe in informed and responsible consumers. We’ll take notes,” said Wirtz

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Your supermarket sandwich could soon have a calorie cap, under new proposals

THESTAR: However, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) has argued that “education rather than banning” should be the aim of reducing the obesity crisis.

Commenting on the proposals, Bill Wirtz, Policy Analyst for the CCC said: “The intentions of PHE are understandable, but rectifying the bad nutritional habits and lack of exercise of some with outright bans for others is just blatantly unfair.

“Nobody is denying that we could all lose weight by only living on water and crispbread, but being a free society means being able to enjoy a pizza, a burger or an ice-cream when you like. Educating rather than banning should be our aim.

Wirtz added: “Ultimately it’s the government that needs to make the decisions regarding these proposed bans on food items. Even a simple execution of PHE’s recommendations would be a clear message that this government does not believe in informed and responsible consumers.”

READ MORE
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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

The fallacy of the meat tax

Bill Wirtz examines the shortcomings of the proposed tax on red meat.

In a recent publication for the University of Oxford, Dr. Marco Springmann and James Martin, both Fellows at the Oxford Martin School argue for the introduction of additional taxes on red meat. Springmann makes the case that taxing products such as bacon could save thousands of lives every year, due to the meat’s association with higher chances heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

Most striking is the regressiveness of a meat tax. All too often, the people suggesting these taxes are not the ones most affected by them. Even if a red meat tax were introduced, “public health advocates” could still afford as much meat as they choose to pay for. That is not the case for the poorest in society. Like for any other consumption tax, it’s the poorest who are most affected by the measure compared to higher earners. Unless we are sympathetic to the idea that the poor should be more overprotected than those that high-income earners, a meat tax would be socially unjust.

It’s saddening that in a world where paternalism is taking over, there is a need to defend one thing: consumers should be allowed to enjoy themselves. Yes, they should be made aware of the health risks associated with their lifestyles, but ultimately it should be up to the individual to choose for themselves what they want to eat. If not, then it won’t end there: once consumers give up red meat, proponents of the Nanny State will just find a new angle through which they trample upon enjoyment. At least today, if you’re looking to live to 120 and be boring, you can do it without impeding on the free choices of others.

But we should not only quarrel with the principle, but also with the statistics.

The essential claim is that processed meat is a danger to public health, as it is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The “associated with” are quite the important key words here, especially since they are being repeated so often. Everything you consume is essentially carcinogenic, and can therefore be linked to different cancers. The question is how dangerous it is exactly. The study Springmann bases his claims on is a 2011 meta-analysis from the Paris Institute of Technology for Life, Food and Environmental Sciences, which says this:

“The preventability of colorectal cancer in theUnited Kingdom through reduced consumption of red meat, increased fruit and vegetables, increased physical activity, limited alcohol consumption and weight control was estimated to be 31.5 per cent of colorectal cancer in men and 18.4 per cent in women.”

You may have noticed here that reducing red meat consumption is just one out of five key characteristics that people would have to follow in order to cut down their risk of colorectal cancer by up to a third (for men). If you narrow it down only to red meat consumption, you find a possible risk reduction in the UK of five per cent, provided the person was eating more than 80g of red meat per day. So yes, certain people can reduce their risk of certain cancersto a certain degree if they limit their consumption of red meat.

However, this is only true if people reduce their consumption of red meat without offsetting it with any other consumption.

It seems that there is an unfortunate disinterest of public health advocates for the occurrence of unintended consequences. If you limit access to one product, people are likely to find alternative routes to consume that product elsewhere. Take the example of Denmark’s fat tax, introduced in the same year that the Paris meta-analysis was published. In October 2011, Denmark’s leading coalition introduced a tax on fattening foods and beverages, such as butter, milk, cheese, meat, pizza, and oil, as long as they contain more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat. After fifteen months, the same parliamentary majority repealed the tax, as the Danes recognised the measure to be a failure.

Still, a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that in the months during the implemented tax, the sale of these foods fell by between 10 and 15 per cent. But, this does not account for the stockpiling or hoarding effect that the Danes experienced prior to the introduction of the tax: in fact, when analysing the effects over the 15 months during which the tax was in effect in Denmark, we saw a marginal drop of 0.9 per cent in consumption of fatty foods and beverages, which lies within the margin of error.

What exactly British consumers will do when presented with a massive tax hike on red meat is hard to tell at this point, but it certainly isn’t as clear-cut as public health advocates would like it to appear. The fact that they don’t account for possible unintended consequences shows more of an activist behaviour than one of scientific research.

Originally published at http://commentcentral.co.uk/the-fallacy-of-the-meat-tax/

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Going for a run is better than feel-good “junk food” bans

On November 23, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that, as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates, but it is set to do nothing of the sort.

The city mayor has taken the example of Amsterdam, which introduced a similar ban last year, and which has seen significant reductions in childhood obesity in the past. However, associating those reductions with the metro ad ban is intellectually dishonest: for one thing, the ban only came into force in January this year, but the claims for significant reductions in childhood obesity are made for periods preceding the ban. In fact, the city of Amsterdam was already showing off with a 16 per cent reduction between 2012 and 2015. Back then, it boasted the advantages of the “Healthy Weight Campaign” by talking about raising awareness of parents, and investing into education regarding physical activity.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade.

So the problem isn’t that children eat too much, but that they move too little. When public health advocates use Amsterdam as an example, they act in bad faith.

But the advertising ban reveals more than just a disinterest in the facts, it is also a display of blatant distrust towards consumers. In essence, the message is: consumers don’t have free will, and are subjugated to advertising. Very few people will find this to be true. We see thousands of ads every year, of products that we’ll never buy. London City basically tells us that we’re mindless consumers, and not responsible individuals. If Sadiq Khan, buys his shampoos on impulse after passing Waterloo station, that’s his problem, not ours.

Advertising establishes brand recognition, and thereby consumer loyalty. There might be a lot of ads, yet the argument that it is oppressive reaches too far. Those billboards in the Tube, or at bus stations also aren’t targeted at children anyways, since most consumers using these services are adults. The city uses the iconic “think of the children” argument to ruin the fun for everyone else. A bulletproof case, since anyone who opposes the ban must be against children.

This doesn’t even mention the £25 million/year in lost ad revenue for TfL. Now that the ban also extends to river services, trams, coach stations, taxi and private hire, those losses could be even more considerable.

Meanwhile, there are actual ways of combating childhood obesity. Educators should not only focus on facilitating a workable diet – even though those are important – but also provide parents and schools with the tools to get children interested in sports. Whenever the World Cup is taking place, the number of children wanting to become football champions spikes, and so does the number of football matches popping up on playgrounds around Britain. Maintaining this sort of enthusiasm should be the goal: offering long-term sporty distractions to children is how they burn calories, and how we get those disconcerting obesity numbers down.

Banning ads in the tube is feel-good policy with no actual effects. It’s head-in-the-sand tactics of believing the problem will disappear if we get rid of advertising, when we actually know it won’t.

Let our politicians chew on that.

Originally published at https://www.europeanscientist.com/en/features/going-for-a-run-is-better-than-feel-good-junk-food-bans/

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Banning junk food ads to combat childhood obesity

MEDICAL NEWSER: On the November 23rd, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London’s tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates.

The Consumer Choice Center’s London-based Managing Director Fred Roeder said that combating childhood obesity is a noble goal, but trampling on consumer choice and the rights of adult consumers isn’t an appropriate solution.

Even though we all agree that obesity is an important issue, marketing restrictions haven’t proved to be effective in stemming it. In 1980, junk food advertising was outlawed in Quebec and contrary to the expected outcomes, childhood obesity rates went up by 140% in the 15 years following the introduction of the ban.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. We don’t have a junk food problem, but a calorie burning problem. Rather than impose the junk food ban, the mayor should advocate promoting healthy lifestyles that include physical exercise.

To back up the plan, the mayor explained that ‘advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make.’ While it is true that advertisements help distinguish products on the market, governments should preserve consumers’ rights to decide for themselves and avoid legislation that seeks to ban brands. Ultimately, we as a society need to focus on educating and empowering parents to ensure their children make healthy choices.”

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost.

Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines.

In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market.

Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries.

Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian.

Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Banning junk food ads to combat childhood obesity

MEDICINE NEWS LINE: On the November 23rd, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London’s tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates.

The Consumer Choice Center’s London-based Managing Director Fred Roeder said that combating childhood obesity is a noble goal, but trampling on consumer choice and the rights of adult consumers isn’t an appropriate solution.

Even though we all agree that obesity is an important issue, marketing restrictions haven’t proved to be effective in stemming it. In 1980, junk food advertising was outlawed in Quebec and contrary to the expected outcomes, childhood obesity rates went up by 140% in the 15 years following the introduction of the ban.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. We don’t have a junk food problem, but a calorie burning problem. Rather than impose the junk food ban, the mayor should advocate promoting healthy lifestyles that include physical exercise.

To back up the plan, the mayor explained that ‘advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make.’ While it is true that advertisements help distinguish products on the market, governments should preserve consumers’ rights to decide for themselves and avoid legislation that seeks to ban brands. Ultimately, we as a society need to focus on educating and empowering parents to ensure their children make healthy choices.”

READ MORE

mm

About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost.

Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines.

In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market.

Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries.

Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian.

Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Banning junk food ads to combat childhood obesity

On the November 23rd, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that as of February, all advertisements for food high in fat, sugar and salt will be banned from the London’s tube and bus network. The measure is part of the mayor’s plan to decrease child obesity rates.

The Consumer Choice Center’s London-based Managing Director Fred Roeder said that combating childhood obesity is a noble goal, but trampling on consumer choice and the rights of adult consumers isn’t an appropriate solution.

Even though we all agree that obesity is an important issue, marketing restrictions haven’t proved to be effective in stemming it. In 1980, junk food advertising was outlawed in Quebec and contrary to the expected outcomes, childhood obesity rates went up by 140% in the 15 years following the introduction of the ban.

In October, Public Health England indicated that more than 37 percent of 10 and 11 year-olds in London are overweight or obese. It is often mistakenly argued that this is caused by high energy intake, but the obesity rates are dependent on the physical activity, which according to the Public Health England has decreased by 24 per cent since the 1960s. Daily calorie intake in the UK is also decreasing each decade. We don’t have a junk food problem, but a calorie burning problem. Rather than impose the junk food ban, the mayor should advocate promoting healthy lifestyles that include physical exercise.

To back up the plan, the mayor explained that ‘advertising plays a huge part in the choices we make.’ While it is true that advertisements help distinguish products on the market, governments should preserve consumers’ rights to decide for themselves and avoid legislation that seeks to ban brands. Ultimately, we as a society need to focus on educating and empowering parents to ensure their children make healthy choices.”

READ MORE

mm

About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost.

Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines.

In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market.

Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries.

Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian.

Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

An overload of warning labels desensitises the public

Does slapping a warning label on every single item we buy in the shops really make us more aware of potential risks, or are we running into an overprotection of the individual?

In an effort to protect public health, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for more comprehensive warning labels on things like alcohol. Numerous working documents praise the usefulness of warning labels in a society in which the risks of alcohol aren’t understood by everyone. Needless to say that EU member states are already going at it when it comes to accessibility : alcohol is hit with excise taxes, special alcohol taxes, VAT, minimum alcohol pricing, sales restrictions limited in time and place, bans on consumption in public places. In Nordic countries, the sale of alcohol is completely in government hands, and expensive to a degree that it impacts tourism.

Alcohol isn’t the only product targeted by public health activists : food products containing sugar and fat should also be hit by marketing restrictions and with health labelling, if all was going according to regulators and those pretending to know better. In France, you cannot even run an ad for crisps without the obligation to point out that salty food can be bad for you, read in the same voice and speed of a pharma-ad disclaimer. « Mind the gap », « smoking kills », « avoid sugary food and exercise » : you can’t help but wonder at what point we’ll become desensitised towards health warnings.

When it comes to labelling, public health advocates are quick to point to a number of studies proving the effectiveness of a particular health warning, be that text of picture. However, this assumes that the warning is already being looked at, which is not self-evident. Just like in the case of medicine : for a drug to be effective, it seems obvious that the patient will have to take it in the first place. Take the example of this 2018 study, which sets the amount of respondents which were actually aware of the warning labels for alcohol.

“Eye-tracking identified that 60% of participants looked at the current in market alcohol warning label […]. The current study casts doubt on dominant practices (largely self-report), which have been used to evaluate alcohol warning labels. Awareness cannot be used to assess warning label effectiveness in isolation in cases where attention does not occur 100% of the time.”

These are people who purchased the product and were actually not aware of what the warning label said. The question is of course : how can that be ? How is it possible that people ignore the warning label ?

The WHO working document “Alcohol labelling A discussion document on policy options” points towards the necessity of good design when it comes to warning labels. It says :

“There are four message components that may be considered when developing an effective health label, each serving a different purpose: (i) signal word to attract attention; (ii) identification of the problem; (iii) explanation of the consequences if exposed to the problem; and (iv) instructions for avoiding the problem. The visual impact of the label can be enhanced by using large, bold print; high contrast; colour; borders; and pictorial symbols.”

But bad design cannot be the only explanation for decreased awareness. Take the example of safety instructions on aeroplanes. Frequent flyers will know : after up to 2 flights a week, they become completely unnoticeable. An inflation of warning labels can desensitise those supposed to be aware of them, because of a lack of nuance. The messages « coffee can be bad for your health » and « smoking cigarettes can be bad for your health » don’t set a hierarchy of health hazards. In fact, sat next to each other both messages could imply that both are equally damaging. We should try not to make health warnings trivial : if they become less meaningful to consumers, we run the risk that important health warnings are actually ignored.

Originally published at https://www.europeanscientist.com/en/features/an-overload-of-warning-labels-desensitises-the-public/

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Banning milkshakes won’t prevent obesity

Core Tip: This week, campaign group Action on Sugar has called for bans on high-sugar milkshakes, such as the Instagrammable ‘freakshakes’, but this approach won’t prevent obesity, says Maria Chaplia, Consumer Choice Center Media Associate.
This week, campaign group Action on Sugar has called for bans on high-sugar milkshakes, such as the Instagrammable ‘freakshakes’, but this approach won’t prevent obesity, says Maria Chaplia, Consumer Choice Center Media Associate.

“In case the milkshake ban proposed by the Action on Sugar receives support from the governmnent, consumers will be subjected to a yet another futile lifestyle regulation,” she says. “The evidence shows that Government-led navigation of consumer’s preferences doesn’t improve public health.

“It is undoubted that obesity is a pressing issue across the world. Most anti-obesity government programmes seek to reduce energy intake, but this approach hasn’t proved successful so far. Numerous evidence indicates that weight excess can be cured through the increase in energy expenditure, achieved through physical activity.”

She added: “According to Public Health England, physical activity in the UK declined by 24 per cent since the 1960s. The average energy consumption followed and has recently dropped too.

“If a 300-calorie ‘grotesquely sugary’ milkshake is unavailable on the market, consumers will opt for a couple of Cadbury’s chocolate bars, 230 calories each. Government is incapable of stopping consumers from making harmful choices through coercion, it can focus on encouraging healthy attitudes though.

“The UK nanny state primarily targets food, tobacco and alcohol and has been recognised as one of the most meddlesome in Europe. Step by step, it has been taking over the freedom to choose and imposing its lifestyle preferences on consumers.

“NHS Christmas dinner guidelines, a sugar levy and now a suggested ban on milkshakes are not only ineffective nutrition regulations, they are warning signs of further interventions.”