I have previously discussed my opposition to sugary drink bans or prohibitive taxation schemes in Chicago and New York. While Cook County reluctantly yielded to public opinion and court decisions recently, other cities have continued to penalize the unhealthy choices of consumers. Now England is considering a measure to put a calorie count on pizza, ready meals and sandwiches to combat obesity. As you might expect, I feel the same way about this measure as a denial of individual choice despite the undeniable well-intentioned purpose of the measure. It is the type of law only a Little Caesar would relish . . . other than the pizza chain of course.
Under the draft proposals, a standard pizza for one could contain no more than 928 calories and “a savoury pie” should contain no more than 695 calories. That would fundamentally limit the size and ingredients of dishes like pizza and remove the right of individuals to choose for themselves. It also disregards the differences between people in their ability to consume calories or to make trade offs. Some people engage in the popular fasting diets where they only eat for short periods but eat anything that they want. The rule would also not include alcohol and other high calorie drinks or table breads.
Like the attempted ban on sugary drinks, this proposal would result in ridiculous changes in ordering. Consumers could simply order more individual slices and restaurants could tailor their dishes to allow for savory smaller pieces to be bought tapas style. Then England would have to start limit consumers to a total calorie count for meals instead of dishes.
I have been a long critic of the “nanny state” model that seems to have taken hold of the United Kingdom. It seems that both individual choice and speech are now viewed as matter of regulation by officials who want to actively shape society and values. Just because this is being done from a liberal perspective does not make it any less authoritarian in my view.