Junkfood Science: Protecting public health

November 20, 2006

Protecting public health

This is just too funny to wait until Friday. Do government public health officials really think people are this dumb?

What might become of buffalo wings, cocoa pebbles and moon pies?

Council's hot air over dragon sausages

The Welsh Dragon sausage, so named because of the mythical Welsh dragon, is to change its name because it does not contain dragon meat. The sausages fall foul of the Government's Food Labelling Regulations and so the producer, Black Mountains Smokery, now have to add the word "pork" to the sausages to prevent people being misled into thinking they contain dragon.

The company could face legal action over the name of the sausages, after Powys County Council Trading Standards informed them that the sausages were in breach of the 1996 Food Labelling Act. The local council analysed the sausages and found that they did not contain dragon meat....

This ruling against Welsh Dragon sausages could unleash this bureaucratic nonsense on other traditional foods such as "toad in the hole" (no toads!), "fairy cakes" (do not contain fairies!) and "devils on horseback" (no devils and no horse in this!)...

On a serious note, it’s easy to believe that government labeling regulations have no downsides. But USDA Economic Research Service researchers have shown that labeling costs much more than just the labels themselves, but includes the creation of standards, testing, certification and enforcement the government has to pay to provide. Balance that with the fact that most consumers pay little attention to them, anyway. A review of 400 articles on product warning labels found no measurable impact on people’s behavior. We can probably think of a lot of better ways to spend public health resources!

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