The international campaign by anti-obesity warriors to tax, regulate, and litigate away consumers’ food choices scored another victory in late September as British food makers announced they would implement several activist-inspired measures, including the elimination of “king size” candy bars. But as the London Telegraph reported this weekend, a leaked memo from Britain’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) — the government’s respected consumer watchdog — warns that efforts by activists and the government to cajole companies into working together to restrict consumers’ options may run afoul of competition laws and ultimately cost the public more money.
The OFT memo points out that when companies attempt to meet the demands of overzealous nutrition activists, the customer is the one who’s harmed. As the Telegraph reports:
The leaked letter, sent by Siobhan Furlong, an OFT executive officer, to the federation in August, says of plans to reduce salt levels in soup and meat products: “Your first proposal could potentially have the effect of restricting competition between manufacturers, thus limiting consumer choice.”
The memo also warns that the rush to downsize treats may lead to customers getting less food at a higher price:
While the OFT praises the role of government to improve nutrition education, it cautions that some efforts may not be legal:
“While we fully recognise the Government’s aims to improve healthy eating, agreements between manufacturers not to manufacture certain products (whether because of their competition or size) or to limit their ability to market their products are likely to raise concerns under competition law.”
Finally, the OFT memo warns against the attempt by many activists to completely abolish advertising to children:
“The ability of manufacturers to advertise is an important aspect of competition. An agreement between manufacturers to limit that aspect of their activities is therefore likely to be of concern. A blanket prohibition on advertising to children, for example, would seem likely to give rise to concerns.”