I want one
I think he's still upset about the rugby

97% Fat Free?

There's an interesting range of opinions on display with regard to the government's plans to make it mandatory for packaged food to be labelled with nutritional information. BWG complained that it was pathetic that it was going to take so long to introduce these laws, Phil agreed, but Conrad is totally against the idea:

If there was sufficient consumer demand for such labels, the food companies would be applying them voluntarily. They aren't. Requiring it by law will raise the price of selling packaged foods in Hong Kong. That price increase will will be passed on to the consumer. There's no such thing as a free lunch, much less a free, nutrition labeled, lunch.

Rather surprisingly, I find myself agreeing with Conrad that there is no need for the government to get involved. Already many imported products have detailed labels, and many local brands do the same, and I feel sure that within five years (which is the government's timescale) it will be the norm.

However, I have to take issue with Conrad's rather idealistic view that the market always delivers what the consumer wants. It's a lovely idea, and one that enables economists and politicians to defend the free market system, but we all know that it doesn't always work. The devil, as they say, is in the detail. Or, to put it another way, consumers always have a limited choice - there may be three or ten brands of mayonnaise on the supermarket shelves, but that doesn't mean that I can find one that is made with olive oil and unpasteurised eggs. Supermarkets control which brands are available, and especially in Hong Kong where cartels rule supreme, choice very often comes a poor second best to profit maximisation.

If we really had a free market system then I am willing to believe that consumer preferences would be accurately reflected in what was available, but we're a long way from that!

Comments

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Simon

Didn't you just contradict yourself? In the first part you agree with Conrad, but then you say that the market gets it wrong sometimes and requires intervention. Is it a case by case thing?

Chris

Yes, I am saying that it is a "case-by-case thing". In this case there is no need for the government to introduce more regulations, but I don't believe that the free market system is so perfect that consumers always get what they want.

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