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BBC Future

60 Second Idea

'Single-letter labels for all foods'

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week Belgian theatre director Alexander Devriendt says that each major food company should be allocated a single letter to name their products.

“My idea to change the word is to make our life in the supermarket just that little bit easier.

Each major company will be allocated a single letter and they will have to name all of their major products starting with that letter. No more false names or washing products that sound like soup.

The letter will be the main thing on the package along with a very dry description of what the product actually is.

This will first of all find products in the supermarket and I would at least then from which company I am buying.

Actually I would have a clearer overview of how few companies make everything I put in my trolley. I probably wouldn’t even need all of the 26 letters in the alphabet. There will be an exception for very small companies – they will get a number to start their name with.

And no tricks form the major companies by dividing the production lines or something like that. As a punishment they get letter x or y.

So my idea to change the world is that we stop buying letters and more numbers.”

You can listen to Alexander discuss his idea with mathematician Ian Stewart and Physicist Lawrence Krauss in more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

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