The growing social and economic costs of diet-related disease have prompted policy-makers to look for methods of changing people’s behaviour. The British government believes the key lies in ‘personalisation’, whereby people take greater responsibility for their own health.
The success of this policy depends on people’s choices as consumers. But consumers can only choose from the options made available to them by retailers and caterers, putting such businesses in a powerful position to shape what we eat.
The ethical argument
Personalisation can work, and consumers should be able to make a choice about the food they eat. But they should do so within a food system that is ethical, fair and sustainable. To achieve that, retailers will have to decide what products to stock – or ‘choice edit’ – on the basis of ethics and health.
People don't expect to be able to buy unsustainable products or to eat unhealthy foods as day-to-day staples. Choice editing is a way of respecting that.
Responsibility for nutrition should be shared by consumers, business and government. Government regulation can guide food companies towards raising the nutritional quality of processed foods and ensure the market is responsive to consumer needs and preferences as people demand healthier and more ethically sound food.
In emphasising people's individual responsibility for their nutrition, government should also renew its commitment to human rights and the right to food.