Bikkies, Chains, and Chicanes

The food industry and the entire retail establishment are active enablers of obesity, and this is an enormous philosophical and political issue. Here is an example of why: “Supermarkets will be banned from offering two-for-one on cakes and biscuits in obesity crackdown.”

In the United Kingdom, what they call biscuits (or bickies, or biccies, or bikkies) are what Americans think of as cookies. The Tory point of view is expressed by a member of Parliament named Sarah Wollaston:

When it comes to children, it’s absolutely right for government to make progress and pull the levers that will make a difference.

But some people, even if they believe in the concept of the “public good,” also believe that it should be defined and implemented by the public, not commanded by the government. In other words, if any tangible or metaphorical levers are pulled, it should be by the people, in the context of voting.

Death by chocolate

Chain dessert bars are populating the centers of British cities faster than coffee shops did. Allegedly, none of these screamingly fashionable establishments publishes all the nutritional information on their fanciful concoctions. Investigators have found that the typical dessert bar specializes in sugar bombs comprising 1,000 calories or more per serving. Television personality Simon Rimmer says that to burn off those calories, “you would have to dance non-stop for three hours, or run for 12 miles.”

Beverages earn their share of disapproval, too. Some factions will not be satisfied until both sugar and caffeine are banished from drinks sold to kids under 16. The new sugar tax, aka the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, has caused some fizzy-drink manufacturers to lower their sugar content, though companies tend to also continue selling the old, over-sugared version right alongside, for consumers who don’t mind paying the tax.

Now, things get complicated. Despite often containing vast amounts of sugar, fruit juice is exempt from the tax. Candy (or confectionary, as it is known in the U.K.) is exempt. Milkshakes are exempt. No matter how well-intentioned this type of law may be, a line has to be drawn somewhere, and nobody is ever happy with where that line is drawn. All they know is, in some beverage categories, proposed changes to the law could ban 90% of drinks from advertising during what are considered to be children’s TV hours.

What the heck is a chicane?

The products, of course, are only one imperfect feature of a gigantic and flawed system. Distribution offers many opportunities to inappropriately influence the minds of shoppers. English supermarkets are like American ones in most ways. At the checkout counter, where they often stand around for a while, customers are accosted by a plethora of items they don’t need, often with discounted prices. These are chicanes, a word related to chicanery, or deceit.

More tellingly, in auto racing a chicane is a special bend in the track, designed to make the drivers slow down. By extension, it can even create a bottleneck effect, like the checkout line at the grocery store. The longer a customer is detained there, the more likely she or he is to put more things in the cart. So the social engineering technique itself is a chicane, and each shiny package filled with empty calories is also a chicane.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Biccy Deal Choker,”, 03/08/18
Source: “Are dessert bars to blame for childhood obesity?,”, 11/13/17
Source: “Supermarket ‘sugar chicanes’ should be banned, England’s most senior dentist says,”, 04/07/18
Photo credit: kroszk@ on Visualhunt/CC BY

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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