Small Data: Issues with marge


Response to a consultation on margarine legality.


The government releases an awful lot of information every day.

You can find it all on the publications page of its website.

I like to think that, however obscure some of the reports look, there are people out there who have been waiting for each one with eager anticipation.

Small Data

  • A series on curious numbers cropping up in the news, by stats watcher Anthony Reuben

There are figures for the gender pay gap at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and there's the updated list of former members of the Ukrainian government whose assets, if any, in the UK have been frozen.

There's a weekly message from Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, and there's the full list of spending on government procurement cards over £500 in January by the Office of the Advocate General for Scotland. That's a spreadsheet featuring 14 labelled columns and the word "NIL".

But this week's small data is the number one, which is the number of responses the government received in its consultation about changing the rules on margarine fortification.

As part of its commitment to reducing red tape, the government had a consultation about whether it should revoke the rule that required anyone producing margarine to fortify it with vitamins A and D.

The unnamed responder expressed concern that such a change could increase the number of cases of vitamin D deficiency in the population.

But the government brushed aside his or her concerns because "only a small number of small producers in the UK make a fat spread that would legally qualify as margarine".

So the stuff that we buy in the supermarket may not legally be margarine? I can't believe it's not.

Anyway, the good news for genuine margarine manufacturers is that it is no longer a criminal offence to sell unfortified margarine.

I wonder if anyone was ever convicted of this heinous crime.

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