Compelling roadside cafes to offer a healthy choice


From the Telegraph:

Roadside ‘greasy spoon’ vans will be forced to close unless they offer healthy alternatives like salads and low fat yogurts.

The snack vans, often found in busy lay-bys, must also limit the amount of mayonnaise served – because it has been branded a “very high fat product”.

Environmental health officers in Guildford, Surrey, will inspect menus during routine hygiene checks.

And traders who fail to meet the strict new standards, will be refused a street trader’s licence when it comes up for renewal each year.

Has our country come to this, that we approach compelling people to make the “right” choices on what they eat, as determined by authority?

Of course we all want to help our fellows. Of course we are all impatient with suffering and want to see less obesity and disease. But we must all be free to make these choices for ourselves if we are to claim we live in a free society.

The source of this well-intentioned authoritarianism is, of course, a QANGO: the Food Standards Authority. They have, for example, “a new vision for enforcement”: “The aim is to provide [local authorities] with flexible interventions for improving business compliance, enabling them to focus resources more effectively.” Whatever these moral busybodies may think, people are not victims: they are, and they must be, responsible for themselves.

To be fair to the particular council, their spokesman stated on the Vine show that they have no intention to close businesses over this, despite the Telegraph’s claims. But imagine the scene when the inspector turns up at the roadside van with a range of “flexible interventions” at his disposal.

A free society, an open society, a democracy, relies on persuasion. People who want to encourage healthy eating might consider persuasion before they resort to coercion. Perhaps they might separate persuasion and coercion. They might consider forming an educational charity, establishing a network of healthy eating vans and getting out there to make their case in the market, without forcing money out of everyone’s pockets to do it.

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Comments & Responses

One Response so far.

  1. grahaminn says:

    “People who want to encourage healthy eating might consider persuasion before they resort to coercion.”

    They might also wish to set an example, by not being so porky themselves, eh Messrs. Prescott, Brown and Clarke ?

    There are also shades of an absurd metropolitan snobbery at work here.

    Will anybody be inspecting the fat/calorie content of dishes of spaghetti alfredo or carbonara in Westminster bistros? Will the beef wellington served in a good London hotel?

    Will Indian restaurants be required not to cook their curries in clarified butter? Will Caribbean takeaways be told to stop frying their chicken?

    One would hope not. Despite the fact that many of these dishes probably contain more sodium, saturated fat and calories than a modest bacon roll with a bit of ketchup on it.

    I want to see John Prescott keep an independently audited food diary for a year. Then we can talk.