Friday, February 6, 2009

A cloud on the horizon?

I can’t say I could work up much outrage over Government proposals to get manufacturers to make, and shops to sell, smaller chocolate bars, crisp packets and fizzy drink cans. So long as the bigger ones are still available, where’s the problem? And even if they’re not, you can still eat or drink two. It would certainly be a step forward if motorway service areas were required to sell normal-sized packets of crisps and 330ml cans of soft drink instead of just 55g “grab-bags” and 500ml bottles, both of which are far too big for a child.

The same applies to measures and pack sizes of alcoholic drinks – if they’re not big enough for you, you can always have another one. Indeed I’ve argued in the past that pubs should offer the choice of 125ml wine glasses, as a 175ml glass of Chardonnay contains more alcohol than a pint of bitter, and that the brewers of 9% ABV super-strength lagers might be well advised to sell them in 330ml cans rather than 500ml. It might be a good idea too for more pubs, especially the beer exhibition-type ones, to offer draught beer in third-pint glasses.

However, it’s entirely possible that this kind of arm-twisting of food and drink manufacturers could have a more pernicious side. Might a future government seek to “persuade” brewers to reduce the strength of widely-available beers in the interest of public health? It’s not hard to imagine a gentlemen’s agreement to reduce the strength of all those 5% lagers by 10% to 4.5%, and indeed 4.5% becoming a de facto maximum strength for draught beers. Where would that then leave all the speciality cask beers of higher strength than this? It may seem far-fetched, but things that once seemed even more far-fetched have actually come to pass. So if it does happen, remember that you read it here first.