By Chloe Westley, Campaign Manager
I love summertime in Britain. Tesco running out of bags of ice, the smell of BBQs that get used once or twice a year, long summer evenings, cricket, Love Island (yes, guilty) and everyone taking a break from complaining about how cold it is, to complain about the heat instead. Marvellous!
There are few traditions as quintessentially British as strawberries and cream at Wimbledon this week. I’ve not yet had the pleasure, so have to rely on photographs from those who have been themselves.
Unfortunately, these photos won’t be found in London Underground tube stations, as an advertisement for Wimbledon which included a picture of strawberries and cream was rejected by Transport for London. Why? Because it breached the Mayor of London’s new ‘Junk Food Ad Ban’ - an expensive and ineffective nanny state policy designed to limit our exposure to dangerous images of delicious foods. The mayor can’t protect Londoners from stabbings and assaults, but thank goodness he’s protecting vulnerable commuters from pictures of strawberries and cream!
The ridiculousness of this individual case study aside, this junk food ad ban represents the very worst of interventionist politics. A problem in society, in this case childhood obesity, is met with calls for the government to ‘DO SOMETHING!’ In response, taxpayer funded quangos and public servants sit around and discuss what to ban, tax, or spend money on. At no point does the question of personal or parental responsibility enter the equation, nor the opportunity cost of time and money spent on regulating people’s diets instead of, say, fixing potholes.
Inevitably these kinds of bans and regulations are poorly designed. This policy defines junk food as anything ‘high in fat, salt and/or sugar and considered ‘less healthy’ under Public Health England guidelines’. That includes sultanas, cheese, organic free-range butter, eggs and bacon, and yes - strawberries and cream. Bizarrely, the ad ban did not stop KFC promoting a ‘party bucket’ of chicken, as was revealed by the Sunday Times. Surely even those who agree with the ban can see that this definition is not fit for purpose.
This policy also represents a potential loss in millions of pounds of revenue for TfL, with the difference likely to be made up by taxpayers and commuters.
Sadiq Khan’s ad ban is an expensive and ineffective policy, which relies on the assumption that advertising delicious food means those viewing the advertisement will be instantly compelled to consume it in large quantities.
Here at the TPA, we think people are probably resilient enough to view pictures of tasty food, including strawberries and cream, and make choices themselves about what they actually eat.