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British Food Nannies Want to Slap That Burger Right Out of Your Hand

In order to fight obesity, a U.K. health agency wants calorie caps on everything.

Roasted chickenMotortion / Dreamstime.comBritish citizens trying to craft a New Year's resolution for 2019 don't have to worry. Your government is taking care of it. You're going to commit to eating less food.

It doesn't matter whether you want to or even need to eat less food. Public Health England has decided that growing obesity numbers require all British citizens to eat less food. And they're going to force the matter by controlling the size of just about every single piece of food and prepared meal available for purchase.

This proposal has been brewing for a while (we made note of it in October), but over Christmas the full extent of the draft plan was leaked to The Telegraph. The plan is both very expansive, capping calories for every prepared food, including vegetables and salad dressings, and repressive, setting limits at around 550 calories for lunches and a weirdly specific 951 calories for restaurant entrees.

The Telegraph notes that these calorie limits hit many prepared meals popular in England, including helpful lists of dishes that are well over the caps. Even a representative from the National Obesity Forum in England who generally supports calorie caps thinks the 550 number is too small and should be more like 800. Public Health England wants citizens to cap their calorie intake from meals at 1,600 per day, which is significantly less than most health experts recommend.

Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute has been blasting this whole plan, which seems comically impossible, but may lead to some dangerously incompetent outcomes. Public Health England says that it's going to be pushing for voluntary changes to reach these goals, but given how low caps are, it seems designed to fail. And then what happens? Snowden is certain that this is all going to become a lot less voluntary:

Some of the companies will attempt to play along, mainly by reducing portion sizes, but it is a doomed enterprise. The government initially threatened to use 'other levers', such as advertising restrictions, 'if progress isn't made', but it has already capitulated to the 'public health' lobby on this, so the only thing left is to threaten them with more taxes and mandatory calorie limits. Make no mistake, the industry is being blackmailed.

If mandatory limits are introduced, it will mean an effective prohibition on many of Britain's best loved dishes. Steak and kidney pudding far exceeds the 951 calorie limit for out-of-home food, as does ham, egg and chips, the all day breakfast, fish and chips, and beer and ale pie (based on Wetherspoons' nutritional information). So does a normal Christmas dinner.

As for foreign cuisine, you can kiss goodbye to kebabs, curries, pizzas and Chinese food. But it's a treat, you say! Tough luck. No exceptions.

Allow me to point out another flaw. You can just buy more food. Attempts by government to control human consumption by controlling portion sizes can (and does) backfire. In South Carolina, prohibitionists tried to control alcohol consumption by limiting the size of liquor bottles. The end result was that individual cocktails ended up having more liquor in them, not less, as bartenders poured the entire bottle into the drink.

It's not wrong to tell people who are overweight that they should eat less. (Disclosure: I used to be overweight myself, and learning to adjust portion sizes to appropriate levels was vital to losing and keeping off weight. But also exercise! And having realistic goals and expectations that don't include trying to starve yourself thin.) But this is the wrong way to do it, both on principle and in execution. A person who leads a very physically active life is more certainly not going to get enough to eat if he or she attempts to comply with what this organization thinks they're supposed to consume each day. A person who probably should eat less may end up eating way more, particularly if they resort to double orders in order to circumvent smaller portions.

It's an awful plan that probably won't accomplish its goals. And when it inevitably goes sideways, the government response will be to go back for seconds.

Photo Credit: Motortion / Dreamstime.com

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  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    I see the next SJW crusade after the soda straw ban is fully implemented.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    The jump from soda taxes in Philly to government rationing nationwide is only one Bloomberg away.

  • A Lady of Reason||

    Michelle Obama's (nightmare) come true....
    https://aladyofreason.wordpress.com/

  • Sevo||

    This is just above "The Future of Science" thread; the future of science is making policy for the great un-washed.

  • juris imprudent||

    Well it is a "public health" proposal, so you can rest assured there was no science involved at all.

  • juris imprudent||

    I didn't think England was supposed to be the setting for The Hunger Games.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Unless they're as good with mixed signals as I am, does this mean the UK will now unban those Nasty Gal ads?

  • Jerryskids||

    Public Health England wants citizens to cap their calorie intake from meals at 1,600 per day, which is significantly less than most health experts recommend.

    1,600 calories per day meets the nutritional needs of a sedentary person confined in a small cage. Coincidence or foresight?

  • Brian||

    That's crazy.

  • SIV||

    Even a representative from the National Obesity Forum in England who generally supports calorie caps thinks the 550 number is too small and should be more like 800.

    Thank Big Brother for raising the lunch ration to 550 calories a day.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "It's an awful plan that probably won't accomplish its goals."

    Yawn. Exhibit #3,257,448 in the progressives' "Intentions Are More Important Than Results" file. Move along, folks- nothing to see here.

  • Bradley Strider||

    Blame progressives all you want, but conservatives are in power in the UK. And they they could simply order Public Health England to scrap this plan, if they weren't such gutless nanny statists.

  • Dillinger||

    the People have revolted against the British rulers on pretty much everything for what, 600 years?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Are you implying that the British people are revolting? :)

  • Dillinger||

    The Big Book of British Smiles didn't write itself.

  • RabbitHead||

    Seriously, how long before the whole of Europe goes up in flames again?

  • Longtobefree||

    Like I always said about those prepared lean cuisine type meals; "These things are great! Three or four of them really fill you up!"

    Of course, we have an historical record of how well Great Britain handles rationing.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Every executive of Public Health England has a picture of Dolores Umbridge on their wall, don't they?

  • Zeb||

    As a naturally very skinny person who needs all the calories he can get, I find this sort of thing particularly personally annoying. I try to eat at least 1000 calories for lunch each day. It tends to be when I have the biggest appetite. Trying to shape society by applying one-size-fits-all approaches like this is just evil. It's like the low-salt thing. Most people can eat as much salt as they want without having hypertension problems. Some suffer higher mortality on a low sodium diet. But we all have to eat more boring food because it's better for a small part of the population.

  • Benitacanova||

    Doner kebab is probably the most unhealthy food of all time. The EU was thinking of banning it altogether. I don't believe in banning food but they should have to post warnings, in big letters for drunks to read more easily.

  • SIV||

    This is an American website. We call that shit "gyro meat" on this side of the pond

  • The Knuckle||

    Doeners....mmmmmm

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    You know who else restricted the caloric intake of its prisoners citizens for their own good?

  • Robert||

    Frank Perdue?

  • Tony||

    In country after country that has entered the modern world, obesity rates have gone up and never once gone down. We are not biologically wired for calorie restriction. The problem is too complex for any social policy ideas we've come up with. I say this as a big government liberal with a no fatties policy.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Exactly. I'm all government addressing simple problems like racism and wealth inequality, but get your dirty goddamn government hands off of my breakfast donut!

  • gjdagis||

    These people are so IGNORANT! It's the PROCESSING of food that is responsible for the obesity epidemic and NOT the amount of calories consumed. Eastern Europe had the lowest obesity rates in the developed world until they opened their markets to the west (and their processed food). Now they are quickly approaching the obesity rates of the west! They take in a comparable amount of calories as they always previously!

  • Fats of Fury||

    Just force them to eat a diet of English food. Two fold benefits, skinny limeys and repels the immigrants.

  • Kevin Smith||

    so if we have 550 calories for lunch, and 951 calories dinner, with 1600 calories a day that only leaves 99 for breakfast. I think you get more than that just smelling a full English

  • jdgalt1||

    So can I just substitute two 2-Ouncers for my Quarter Pounder, or is the law going to say that they can't sell me more than one per hour? (In which case I'll just eat one and then go across the street for something else.)

  • Robert||

    What are they going to do about foods that come in irreducible sizes, like eggs and fruit?

  • cc2||

    Under Michelle Obama's reign, school lunches were throttled down. It was the same portion size for the 110lb cheerleader and the 220lb football player. The latter were starving. Lots of the "healthy" parts ended up in the trash because inedible.
    I am very active, run, and until age 55 was never a pound over weight. I ate lots. I am sure I would exceed these limits. My understanding is that normal male portions are 2200 calories/day, not 1600.

    But the real point is that it is none of their business. The door to this was opened by having gov healthcare so that it became their cost to take care of the obese. I find it sad when people are too fat to walk but I keep my nose out of it. If your greatest pleasure is eating, go for it.

    Salt is another one. My brother was on a no-salt diet at 40 just because and he got so weak he thought he might have to quit work. I pointed out his problem and as soon as he added salt back he was a new man. Salt is only bad if you already have high blood pressure or kidney disease. It does not CAUSE disease. Idiots.

  • ChuckNorrisBeardFist||

    "setting limits at around 550 calories for lunches and a weirdly specific 951 calories for restaurant entrees."
    "Public Health England wants citizens to cap their calorie intake from meals at 1,600 per day, which is significantly less than most health experts recommend."

    So one plan is for 1501 and the other for 1600. They can't even agree on how much to starve you.

  • ChuckNorrisBeardFist||

    "setting limits at around 550 calories for lunches and a weirdly specific 951 calories for restaurant entrees."
    "Public Health England wants citizens to cap their calorie intake from meals at 1,600 per day, which is significantly less than most health experts recommend."

    So one plan is for 1501 and the other for 1600. They can't even agree on how much to starve you.

  • Rick Stewart||

    It's easy to be cynical, but lower calorie entrees are an excellent idea and will indubitably result in a healthier population in the long run.

    In my establishment we performed numerous scientific calculations and discovered our entrees were coming in at an average of 1666 calories, far above the suggested limit of 951. We immediately went to work and, with very few adjustments, were able to achieve our goals, actually reducing our highest calorie entree to exactly 950.75 calories.

    We only had to remove one ingredient (unfortunately the cheapest ingredient, so we aren't saving much money) from our recipes to meet these laudable public health goals.

    We eliminated an average of 69% of the bullshit.

    QED

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    Macro ratios are much more important than calories. Lowering carbs, increasing fats will lead to automatic portion control.

  • PG23COLO||

    These people are not food nannies, they are food fascists.

    This plan cannot succeed. The Brits will never give up fish and chips or their ale.

  • NoVaNick||

    Let's not forget that this all started with bans on smoking. I remember having a conversation with someone who thought how great they were and how much healthier everyone would be-when I told him that 10 years from now, we would be told what we could and couldn't eat, he just laughed and rolled his eyes. Of course we think this won't ever happen in the US, but give it a few years.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    Government food advice has made people fat all over the world, now they want to put in place regulations to make up for their colossal fucking mistake.

  • Brian Whittle||

    550 Calories for lunch is more than enough unless you are working hard manual labor, that's assuming you have had some breakfast when the count goes out the window.

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