Friday, September 15, 2017

Nanny State Madness - Put Calories on Grocery Receipts

From the Nanny Madness of the UK, a proposal to put "food quality" scores on grocery receipts. 
Well, a new proposal says the “traffic lights” system – widely adopted on food and drink packaging since 2013 – should be migrated from individual items to entire receipts. Forget the problem of making it through checkout without impulse-buying three bags of bonbons and a copy of Heat! magazine; now it is about the half-price pizza catapulting your basket into “red” territory.  

“Instinctively, it seems like a good idea,” says Ed Morrow, campaigns manager at the Royal Society for Public Health. “If health information is just on the product, it’s easy to ignore, but if you get another reminder at the till you might start to compare receipts, see what you’ve scored each time, then try to do better. Doing things that gamify the experience of shopping can be a good motivator in terms of changing behaviour.” That is if you want your midweek trip to Tesco to be gamified: is this just 21st-century code for the nanny state? “It’s not telling people what to do,” Morrow says. “All it does is provide people with extra information.”
Sheer madness.  Let's start with the knowledge that there's no evidence that forcing restaurants to put calorie counts and nutrition summaries on menus does anything.  In fact, the evidence is that the requirement to post nutrition counts makes work for restaurants and raises prices but consumers don't care.  Now let's extrapolate to the grocery receipt.  This is based on the assumption that what the buyer bought is eaten between grocery store trips as it came from the store, and not prepared into meals combined with other things they already have or buy elsewhere.  The buyer could just as well be feeding friends, donating food, or storing it so that it's eaten over a longer length of time or at some time in the future.  All of the nutritional guidelines are based on consuming a mix of foods in meals and the quality of the meal is based on comparison to standard daily intakes of some amount of food.  There is simply no way to get that from a grocery list, unless everything that person buys is  precooked meals from that store and that's all they ever eat. 

Let's go with a simple example.  Someone buys some food that the food police code as red.  Then they go to another shop and buy other things coded green to make a meal that changes the nutritional data completely.  The article states it's likely to be accurate in the long run, but I don't see how.  Averaging bad data doesn't make it good data.  It just makes a bad average.
The proposed "traffic light" method.

Mrs. Graybeard and I have a running joke that the purpose of buying celery is to put it in the refrigerator until it gets limp and has to be thrown out.  That's an exaggeration, of course (exaggeration is the essence of humor), but we honestly think we've thrown away more celery than we've eaten.  That's a way to bias the data, too.

Nutrition codes on a grocery receipt are meaningless information that aren't going to affect anything, are based on several faulty premises, and will create costs that the poor customers are going to have to pay for - so that they can ignore it.

But remember the line in the first clip from the article where Ed Morrow said, “It’s not telling people what to do?”  Anna Taylor, executive director at the Food Foundation. removes any doubt that telling people what to do is exactly what this is about.  It just uses a Cass Sunstein "Nudge" approach.
“What would be really interesting is if the retailers link it to algorithms set up for loyalty cards for those who want it,” says Taylor. “So, if a till receipt shows lots of reds, you might get vouchers to buy more veg. That’s when it could start to get really powerful. But let’s be clear: the whole food system has to work harder to make the easiest choices the healthy choices. That’s what needs to change.” 
No, Ms. Taylor.  What needs to change is you.  You need to go away. 


  1. For the most part, the government needs to get out of our lives. It has a role, but in the UK, it's out of control. California is insane too.

  2. I couldn't agree more, SG. They've managed to craft together all the worst parts of 1984, Brave New World, the Soviets, the East Germans, the Red Chinese, and Pol Pot – and then tied it all up in pretty bows made from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

    When will we have had enough? Or are we past being able to do anything about it except shoot and run?

    1. Shoot only works if you shoot the correct people. Do note that any leader in Congress or your state government could be replaced by any random person off the street from any hive in this country, with NO change in results.

      They stand behind their Blue Wall and laugh, because they know their Only Ones will do WHATEVER they are told, as long as that paycheck keeps comin' in. "Law Enforcement" are Rove Republicans, and have all the "character" traits associated therewith:
      No morals
      No principles
      No scruples
      No honor.

      Until you convince THEM that they chose the wrong career, NOTHING will change for the better.

    2. Well, I'm about ready to smack anybody who says the word "healthcare"... :-)

    3. Mark, these particular folks are Sanders-type Democrats not Rove Republicans, but the concept is still good. The UK is much farther down the road of decay and socialism than we are. And, of course, this isn't even to the level of UK law, it's a proposal. Proposals, though, unless they're roundly criticized, mocked and condemned, just tend to move the Overton Window.

      Publix promotes an initiative on their part to put nutrition data on little tags on the shelf. It's their "Registered Dietician's" advice, and it's good to know it's an RD so you know to ignore. It's like if you're a diabetic, the last people you ever want to listen to are the American Diabetes Association and the Certified Diabetes Educators (assuming you want to minimize the amount of medication you need and the amount of diabetes complications you suffer). They were bought out decades ago.

      But what Publix is doing is attempting to a free market version of what the UK is talking about making into law. If they want to spend the money on that, well "bless their hearts" as we say in the south.

      I'm so sick of the whole argument of "free healthcare" that I want to throw up. I think that's their way of operating. They wear us down until we don't just shoot them.

    4. are we past being able to do anything about it except shoot and run?

      Losers of battles focus on tactics, winners of battles focus on logistics. The government is not Santa Claus. Government does not supply itself using wealth produced by invisible magic elves in a magic workshop located nowhere.

      Who supplies government with petroleum, oil, lubricants; food to feed bureaucrats and soldiers; military intelligence to identify lawbreakers? Hint: it's not the Federal Reserve banking system which inflates the currency at 10%/year.

  3. Sickening-this whole obsession of what other people eat, how they cook, what they cook, how many people eat this food with is a symptom of weird obsession on their part. Mentally unstable government idiots, who spy, imagine, and shape someone else's food bowl. I'm dropping the "savings" incentive card from my local supermarket, I have cut back on Costco shopping since I found out that they too want to peruse my every purchase. I have started going to my local Walmart with cash or a prepaid card to purchase items. And screw everybody! I watch my own carbs, and do not need a "dietician", "informed government agent", or "specialist" to watch them for me. I have one of those handy, regulated papers that say I am a college-edumacted-graduates so they can save extra ink on my purchases. No further monitoring needed! Can you think of what our great grandmother would say to this BS? Shotguns would become a fashion accessory in a new york minute. It's more than time for every person to take back their God Granted personal sovereignty.
    -Stealth Spaniel

    1. Can you think of what our great grandmother would say to this BS?

      The great grandmother who was so pushy for alcohol prohibition? Each year the majority of the population wants a few percent more government than last year. Great grandmother raised her children to want ever-more government, too. A constant percentage increase each year is exponential growth, and here we are.

  4. If your population has a high percentage of government-loving progressive liberals, they'll find some vegetarian, nonsmoking, tee-totaling, homosexual, incestuous painter to serve as a figurehead.

    The problem is not the figurehead, by himself the figurehead can do nothing. The problem is his mainstream do-gooder supporters who are determined to save your soul at gunpoint.