WARNING: This post discusses delicious fatty food and alcoholic drinks you may enjoy

Plain packaged foodFor years the IPA has warned that booze and food is the new tobacco. The evidence is now comprehensively in. Articles increasingly appear from public health ‘experts’ saying food and alcohol should be regulated the same way.

Today we’ve had a reminder that these calls are increasingly turning into proposals of action. A Queensland Health bureaucrat is arguing for new graphic health warnings to be put on food warning of the risks of obesity. This time we are skipping the text labelling and going straight for shock value. Requests for graphic warning labels have come from the same official who called for fat taxes in November. According to the article in the Courier Mail:

GRAPHIC images of fat on junk food labels, similar to anti-smoking shock tactics, could be resorted to in a desperate bid to curb the state’s obesity crisis … such a campaign could mirror the successful anti-smoking labelling and advertising tactics of recent years.

What’s more concerning is how the Queensland government doesn’t seem to think that obesity isn’t an issue of individual choice and responsibility:

 Mr Springborg has put manufacturers on notice to improve their food nutrition or face government stepping in. The fitness-conscious minister said major retailers and manufacturers also had to improve their promotion of healthy food over high energy snacks. I am anti-nanny state because I think people have been regulated to death,” he said. “But there are some things where government cannot dismiss stepping in and this is one of those.

Plenty of proposals have been put up to tackle obesity and have spectacularly failed. The solution is always to propose even more extreme measures in the hope that they will work. Whether there is evidence they will work is immaterial. And if they fail the process is simply repeated. Graphic warning labels are only the latest iteration because it is a one-size-fits-all policy designed to address a deeply personal challenge.

Not everyone struggles with their weight for the same reason. Unsurprisingly the solutions are not all the same. It’s precisely why government is so bad at responding to these societal challenges.

Whether there will be national support for graphic warning labels on food is unclear. Personally I doubt it. People don’t mind attacking smokers with these sorts of images because most of us don’t smoke. The same doesn’t apply to fatty, salty and sugary food which we all indulge in, at varying rates. But we shouldn’t assume it will end there. As the picture above shows some people are already modelling plain packaging for fast food. Presumably then the license proposal will also be flagged by health activists. The future of consumption appears pretty plain, and that’s precisely how health activists seem to like it.

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