Wednesday 8 August 2012

Watching the slide down the slippery slope

For now, it's just a proposal from the New Zealand healthists.

Health officials worried about an obesity epidemic want fast-food advertising dropped from public property, including bus shelters, and are questioning fast-food and soft-drink sponsorship of public events.
They have also raised concerns over the lack of political power to stop fast-food restaurants being built near schools and in poor areas.
What about McDonald's sponsorship of things like Ronald McDonald House? Says Auckland Health Board Clinical Director Robyn Toomath:
"We've reached that purist approach with tobacco, completely hardline. There's no way in the world we would have a Rothman's Centre for Kids in Hospital. You start off saying we won't promote the sale of goods, then the next step is [not allowing] sponsorship of these companies."
McDonald's, Rothman's, no logical difference. No slippery slopes, 'till you're close to the bottom.

For a more reasonable take on McDonald's and the miracles wrought by careful supply chain management, consult Blunt Object [language warning].


  1. Yes, a tax or a ban on a food choice, is a tax or a ban on choice, period. Which is an attaxk on the freedom of every individual.

  2. When I go to the supermarket I still remain awed at the huge amount of space taken up by bread, buns and the bakery of special breads, but despite the variety two words still dominate the offerings.. "white" and "toast" . The same applies to pastas and rice.

    Back in the day the big order was concentrated on meat with the carbs well down the list.

    What I'm suggesting of course is that the obesity epidemic coincides with a shift in emphasis from protein to carbs and the food fascists are concentrating their efforts on secondary causes which just happen to protect their notions of what people should eat.

    Incidentally, how come a kid from a poor family has the $6-8 per day to buy a Big Mac and a litre of coke every school day?


  3. I was reading something recently (may have been by Harford) that made a good point about advertising by large brands such as McDonalds and Coke Cola. The fast food chains and associated companies are so large and well known that they don't actually need to advertise. One of the reasons they do it is to maintain their brand and create a barrier of entry to potential competitors.

    So banning fast-food advertising/sponsorship could have a twofold effect that isn't what the anti-fast-food brigade would expect: Fast-food chains will save money on advertising so will make larger profits, which will attract new entrants to the market as barriers to entry have been lowered and it's now more profitable.

    As an impoverished student I applaud such moves. Cheaper and more plentiful fast-food can only been a good thing.

  4. Good point, but I don't think it will make much difference. The desire to limit or ban fast food advertising is driven by moral/aesthetic urges rather than practicality. The same logic applied to tobacco advertising -- ceteris parabus, banning advertising surely made tobacco companies more profitable, but that didn't stop the legislation.

  5. I would be interested to see studies in the degree of aisle space devoted to various food types over time. My understanding is that in the US, in recent decades, meat and dairy consumption has gone down, processed food has gone up, and I think fresh fruit and veges has gone up moderately. Certainly hasn't made people get any thinner.

  6. Sadly true David. I completely agree.

  7. About that fat food Eric,

    We went into the Tesco Lotus operation, here in South Thailand, all over Thailand in fact, and there you are in the front line entrance .... you know.. you have already parked your car and the kids are yelling .... and there it is Kentucky Fry, McDonalds, Svensens Icecream and other assorted goodies, they scream for it and you just say to yourself "Oh budddha God I am just so tired today" and child says "listen parent you go over there and look at camera stuff upstairs while we eat"and you do Next year you say to your wife " dear Wife Kaan, why our children fat"and they sure not eat cabbage no more

  8. Sure, but they'll do that regardless of advertising.

    Mmmm... haven't had KFC in so long... stupid no KFC on campus...

  9. Unfortunately by banning advertising, you'd never find out about the new entrants.

  10. Advertising allows me to consume a lot of stuff at low price for which I'd otherwise have to pay explicitly. I prefer the with-ads equilibrium.

  11. But I don't watch television, read newspapers or see any flyers. I surf the internet with an ad-blocking extension for Chrome on always. I see very few mainstream commercial advertisements. If a new entrant comes into a market I either observe it myself or hear about it through word of mouth.

    Granted a company could exploit social media to reach people in my social circle, thus letting me know about it. However it's unlikely legislation would be able to ban commercial use of social media (since it is opt-in by its very nature and very little of it is based in NZ).