Claire Foges supports the proposition that stores could ban you from buying junk food online
By Claire Foges
A family bag of toffee popcorn; a super-sized packet of chocolate buttons; a 12-pack of cola: add to basket!
Now that so many of us are doing our food shopping online, there is even more temptation to pile our (virtual) trolleys high with naughty-but-nice things.
If you were in an actual supermarket, you might think twice before lobbing in another packet of biccies with your gluttony on display. But not so when calorie-laden snacks are just a click away.
So bravo to Will Quince MP and KPMG policy-maker Mark Essex, guests on a podcast which discussed a smart idea to stop us all rolling out of our houses come the end of lockdown: supermarket shoppers online should be able to opt in to a system that blocks them from putting junk food in their baskets.
Try to sneak in that pack of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and the website will give you a virtual slap on the wrist. Cue cries of ‘nanny state!’
I can hear the wails now: ‘Why won’t politicians butt out? Why can’t we be free to eat what we want?’
This idea is less finger wagging, more helping hand
But how free are we, really, when powerful forces conspire to get cheap calories down our throats: the advertising cajoling us to indulge, the offers on junk food that make it extra tantalising, the food scientists devising ever more delicious products to keep us scoffing.
We’re familiar with Big Tobacco, the web of commercial interests that has pushed cigarettes on a coughing, wheezing world for decades, but what about Big Food, the multi-billion-pound juggernaut that makes us yearn for artery-clogging fare? In the battle between Big Food and British willpower, it’s clear who’s winning. Today, 62 per cent of the UK population is overweight. A third of teenagers begin adult life carrying too many pounds. Diabetes cases have trebled over the past 25 years.
A crisis of this scale needs more imaginative solutions, so why not let people sign up for curbs on their supermarket shop if it helps them avoid bad choices?
I write this not as some spinach-gobbling health nut, but as someone who is driven weak-kneed by certain foods. Right now, half a Victoria sponge cake is making cooing noises at me from the kitchen. It’s incredibly hard to resist temptation.
If a simple switch on supermarkets’ websites could help a few of us eat healthier food, why not?
This isn’t a wagging finger, but a helping hand.
Julie Burchill instead thinks that it is one step closer to ‘the nanny state’s oversized playpen’
By Julie Burchill
Honestly, I nearly spat out my deep-fried breakfast Mars Bar when I heard the suggestion that supermarkets should help us lose weight by stopping us from putting naughty food in our online shopping baskets.
Although the idea is for an opt-in service to start with, who knows where such surrendering of personal autonomy will lead? My guess is straight to the oversized playpen where the nanny state has been seeking to make us sit safely for quite some time now.
In my life, I’ve gained so much weight that magazines printed photos of Jabba the Hutt with my name on, and I’ve lost so much weight that my skirts would fall off in the street.
Now I’d call myself chubby — and extremely fit for a sexagenarian. But whatever weight I am, I’ve never sought to blame others or take guidance. Because I’m a grown-up.
When we’re young we dream of being adults, free to do as we please. So when did we start to age backwards, welcoming the soothing diktats of others? The infantilisation of our bold island race started way back, but the pandemic has escalated it alarmingly.
Wear a mask. Don’t see your family. Don’t tweet that or the cops will come calling. Taking a walk? Here’s a fine! What sort of idiot, when every other area of our lives is now policed, wants to be told what to eat, too?
As well as the philosophical stupidity of surrounding our diet plans with algorithms, there’s the practical consideration — the fact that any diet based on someone else granting or taking away permission to over-eat (rather than actual willpower) is doomed to failure.
We’re heading for the nanny state’s oversized playpen
And don’t forget the Fun Factor; tellingly, while discussing the idea, MP Will Quince said that his wife now calls him ‘a diet bore’ and, while not all fat people are fun, all those who wish to bother other people into ‘sensible’ behaviour are, in my experience, very boring indeed.
We’ve all shrieked in horror at those adult babies who are only happy when dressed in huge nappies. But when we willingly surrender our freedoms to those who ‘know better’, we resemble them.
‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face for ever,’ George Orwell wrote in his dystopian novel 1984.
The way things are going, the future looks not like a boot, but a huge foam finger, wagging in our faces for eternity.