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We have too much food! Something must be done!

THE FOOD FASCISTS are out again, stung into righteous finger-wagging by some report that says we’re wasting too much food.

It’s the usual clamour from the usual bunch of the Professionally Concerned. People are getting fat! Food is too cheap! Supermarkets are to blame – they give us too much choice! They advertise! Something must be done! Ban something! Tax the supermarkets more! Tax the food producers more! Put the price of food up! Starve us! Make us eat our leftovers!

As with all aspects of life where there overwhelming benefits there will also be some disadvantages. Everything is trade-off. For example, I don’t like the idea of supermarkets pushing suppliers and producers as hard as possible on price and appearance with the result that lots of perfectly good food is discarded, but that’s the nature of the market and everyone in the industry accepts this – if they don’t they should be doing something else. I want to buy cheap, decent spuds at the supermarket: if a farmer can supply them to the chain and still make a living, good for him. It may sound brutal but I no more care about his livelihood than he does about mine. Unlike your average progressive I just don’t have the time or inclination to care passionately about everything and everyone in the world.

It’s that market system, again, though, that’s proving difficult for the finger-waggers to understand. None of this can work if people don’t buy stuff. Rose Prince in The Telegraph grudgingly admits, “Of course, the shopper has a responsibility too” for all this consumption and waste, but she swiftly moves on to blame the supermarkets: “But our four, highly competitive major retailers who service more than 80 per cent of the population have one main concern: their profits.” Well, yes, Rose, if they don’t make profits they go bust: we don’t get the grub and people lose their jobs.

That’s not enough, however. She continues: “Do they care that half the food they sell is going in the bin? There is little evidence of that.” Why the hell should they care? What is she expecting – some kind of personal after-sales service where the food cops come round to see if you’ve kept your chicken carcass for making into stock? What kind of world is this woman living in?

When it comes to food, the shopper is always innocent (and gullible). There’s never any expectation that the individual should exercise initiative or responsibility for their actions. It’s always the supermarkets to blame. Because they advertise and we’re too stupid to see that they’re trying to sell us something. Because they offer us stuff that we like, and lots of it, at prices we find acceptable? And that’s bad?

Well, apparently it is. “Price is the key factor in our behaviour with food and food may, simply, be too cheap,” says the writer of a Comment Is Free article (“Comment Is Free” – to which should be appended And Reality Is Irrelevant) in the Guardian. In this perverse looking-glass world it’s wrong that food should be cheap and abundantly available. The twisted logic of these people demands that it cost more so we eat less, waste less and somehow “save the environment”.

Once again we’re presented with the irony that so-called progressives want to take us backwards. Just like the green energy freaks who want to return us to a darker and colder age when light and heat were in short supply, so the food fascists want to return us to the days of our grandparents and great grandparents, when food cost more, was less various and not half as pleasant to eat as it is now.

My answer to these people is straightforward: no thanks. If you want to pay over the odds for your food, then please find somewhere to do so; if you don’t like supermarkets, then don’t damn well shop at them. Leave me alone. What goes in my stomach is my business. Keep your interfering, tax-worshipping, statist, authoritarian hands off my grub and out of my wallet.

– Michael Blackburn.

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