The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

The Food Police

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 11, 2009 @ 09:39

When I were a lad, we used to get guilt tripped into eating our food, because of the poor, starving children in Africa. These days, the threat is much more immediate and severe...

When I were a lad, we used to get guilt tripped into eating our food, because of the poor, starving children in Africa. These days, the threat is much more immediate and severe...

Beware, Hilary Benn is coming to tell you what you can and can’t eat!

As someone who loves a good bargain – or, at least, someone who likes to enjoy the illusion of getting a good deal (because we all know prices are always adjusted to make these deals less favourable than they look!) – it will be a crying shame if we see the end of the BOGOF.

The libertarian in me says that this kind of plan is outrageous. How dare we tell the free market what they can and can’t do! But, naturally, we do every day, with our legislation and food/hygiene regulations.

The selfish aspect of my nature is also very aggrieved indeed. As someone who plans his diet and food purchases with military precision, lining things up in order of best before date in the fridge, my waste is almost zero. But even my family are just as good: there are so many of them living in the one house that things don’t stick around long enough to reach a best before date.

So we’re going to be punished because other people aren’t disciplined or organised enough to buy food sensibly, not stacking up on short-dated produce they have no chance of eating in time. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Why do we need the government to tell us when and what we can eat?

But my statist reflexes are also kicking in. By the fact that people throw away so much food there is obviously a problem. Perhaps people are a bit stupid and aren’t really bothered about food waste. Maybe they don’t need the money they could save by just cutting back a little. Despite the recession, it appears that some people really do have too much money and are very happy to waste it on sheer indulgence.

How can this problem be solved? We can’t legislate more personal responsibility. We also can’t wave a magic wand and make people more intelligent enough to think up the answers themselves.

And yet… as with a lot of environmental problems, we have brought a lot of this on ourselves with modern living. The older generations lived through rationing, where wasting a crumb of food was considered a crime. Products like lemonade used to come in glass bottles which could be returned for a deposit and reused. People used to grow their own food. Using plastic to wrap up food was unheard of; paper bags were the order of the day. A frugal and austere culture has existed before.

The conclusion from all this is the tragic one. In order to win our battles with this planet, there has to be a very large element of reinventing the wheel. Good luck with convincing people to sacrifice their modern convenient lifestyles though!

So I have great sympathy with what Hilary Benn is saying. And I know that there are no easy solutions.

Sadly, legislation is going to have to be one of them.

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