The front page of the Independent (pictured) has amused me greatly. It makes the point that there is a global food shortage and Britain throws away loads of fresh food every day - the headline being 'What A Waste! The Scandal of our Throwaway Society'.
If you're wondering why this caused such merriment at such an early hour it's because I just couldn't help flipping the point over in my head and pondering on what the Indy headline would be if we were not throwing away the fresh food and eating it instead?
'Botchulism Britain - The Scandal of a Society Poisoning Itself' perhaps? 'The Out-of-Date British Way of Life - How Britain is slowly eating itself to death' maybe? What about 'Supermarket Salmonella Sweep - How the food retail giants force us to eat off food by hiking prices '?
You get the point I hope. Yes, we throwaway a lot of food each day. However, that's because firstly shops have no choice if the 'Use By' date passes. They cannot legally sell it. They can't even give it away to charity, and let's be honest, if they did, a paper like the Independent would lead on 'Helping the Homeless? - Scandal of supermarket giants that poision the soup kitchen'.
The second, and more individualistic reason we throw so much away is because of that little 'Use By' date again. We have been so infantilised by state regulation that most people just read the date, check the calendar, then chuck it. Having the knowledge to know when something is 'on the turn' or, when something will be OK if you cook it properly has been lost to lives indirectly and unconsciously ruled by regulations.
Some years ago we just had 'Best Before'. That essentially put out the message 'you should eat this before this date but if you eat it afterwards that's your choice and we're not responsibile for it if you get ill'. When they introduced 'Use By', which is an order rather than an advisory note, we deferred responsibilty of that decision to eat to the regulation itself that brought the labelling requirement in.
Ironically it was a regulation brought in, as ever, to protect the public in the great paternal/nanny state. The consequence being that those who would no doubt vehmently oppose the repealing of 'Use By' on health and safety grounds, now find themselves moaning that we all follow the instructions and chuck the stuff away so we don't potentially get ill.
Frankly this is the best example of the Law of Unitended Consequence I've ever seen.