The Food and Ethics Council has challenged the government’s move to “nudge” the public towards healthier and greener lives.
Popularised by academics Richard Thaler and Cass Sustein, and embraced by David Cameron, nudging guides people’s behaviour rather than prohibiting them from doing something.
In an environment where politicians want a smaller state, nudging is an attractive prospect, seeming cheaper and more popular than regulation.
But people working at the sharp end of nutrition and sustainability are deeply concerned by the dangers of government relying on nudges.
Tom MacMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council said: “My concern is that the coalition government seems to be shedding its regulatory responsibilities in the name of nudge.”
“Nudging can work – but only as part of a package of measures. Government must show that it’s willing to step in with regulation and strategic leadership when necessary. Otherwise, it risks undoing all the recent good work we’ve seen happen in public health and sustainability.”