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Unthinkable? Commonsense food labelling |Editorial

Growing up is about learning how to do risky things safely. The same should be true of the law

There is a well-understood balance between protecting people from risk, and making available the information that allows them to make their own decisions. There is also a growing recognition that too many rules may lead to unintended consequences, that rather than liberating people from danger they can constrain us inappropriately or distort the risks we take. It is better, for example, to be advised of a wet floor than to be bossed about not running. A cheer, then, for Sainsbury’s decision to remove the injunction to “freeze on day of purchase” on its fresh produce, a move it believes could save an astonishing 800,000 tonnes of food a year. More contentiously, the practice of separating pedestrians from other road users, it is said, can make cars more rather than less dangerous to people on foot or bike. Experiments are under way that put everyone in the same space and ask them to make their own judgment about safe behaviour. Drivers are said to be infinitely more considerate in such circumstances, although it may not always feel like that to pedestrians. Removing the minatory warnings of officialdom while ensuring essential information is available should not be impossible. For example, fresh food could carry a picked on/cooked on date, a sentence of storage advice and a best-before date. If you think you can dive safely in 2m of water, you should make the judgment yourself. Growing up is about learning how to do risky things safely. The same should be true of the law. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds