Should The Government Control What We Can and Can Not Eat?
By Catherine Morgan on April 13, 2010
BlogHer Original Post
I know many people don't think our government has any business telling us what we can and can not eat. Until recently, I might have even agreed. But the problem of obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, and there's no sign of it getting any better on its own. More and more evidence is pointing to the dangers associated with all the high fat, high sugar, and processed foods we are eating. And with such a limited amount of healthy food available to the consumer, (at least compared to unhealthy foods), its virtually impossible to suggest that people have a "choice" when it comes to avoiding trans fats and processed foods.
These foods are not just making us fat, these foods are killing us. The CDC estimates that more than 300,000 Americans die each year from obesity-related complications...Doesn't our government bare some responsibility in protecting the lives of its citizens?
It seems we are long past telling people to simply avoid these unhealthy foods. To make matters worse, it's now believed that junk food can be as addicting as cocaine.
Here is a graph showing preventable causes of death...
What can be done?
Obesity isn't a problem that can be solved with a one-size-fits-all solution. But there are things our government could do that would help.
Although controversial, some say that taxing junk food is the answer. But during a recession it's hard to justify increasing the cost of food (even if it is junk). I think taxing junk food could be a good idea, as long as it's done in conjunction with making healthy foods more available and affordable. And what about taxing the manufacturers producing this junk too? It surely couldn't hurt to make selling junk food less profitable.
I also think more regulations on processed and fast foods would be beneficial. Eliminating trans fats is a great start, but lowering the acceptable amounts of sodium and sugar being used by manufacturers is also very important. We have to stop allowing manufacturers to sell products that are essentially killing consumers.
What do you think?
Here are a few articles on this topic...
From The Huffington Post...
We know, for example, that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help manage weight and lower risks for cancer and other chronic diseases, especially when they replace calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods. Yet fewer than one in 10 Americans meet the levels of fruits and vegetable consumption recommended under the latest calorie-specific, healthy eating guidelines. And farm policy historically has overlooked incentives for fruit and vegetable production.
So how do we get farm policy and public health on the same page?
As a start, the executive branch needs to pull together disparate health and agriculture communities around food policy. There needs to be a Healthy Foods Commission -- and it has to be independent. Such a commission, comprised of non-governmental public health, agriculture and food system experts, could work closely with the Administration's Task Force on Childhood Obesity to ensure upstream and downstream food system goals are mutually reinforcing.
"I think we learned from tobacco," says Najeebah Shine, who oversees community health programs for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. "It's going to take large public-policy changes to move us beyond individual behavior choices."
But like tobacco regulation, anti-obesity policies face pushback from industry, as well as ideological resistance from those who don't think government should tell us what to eat. It's debatable whether we can legislate ourselves thinner, or whether we should even try.
"This is an interesting philosophical debate in how you define what is a public- health interest versus an individual-health interest," says Jessica Berg, a professor of law, bioethics and public health at Case Western Reserve University.
State interventions to reduce obesity face even higher hurdles than tobacco laws, Berg says, because tobacco is a single product with no redeeming quality. But even the greasiest fries have some nutritional value.
Who's to say which foods on society's grand buffet table should be legislated?
The government already has more of a role in helping you determine what foods you place in your grocery cart than you might realize. Which foods are cheapest and most readily available have long been strongly affected by intense government intervention. Since World War II, the federal government has been underwriting the production of cheap sweeteners (like high-fructose corn syrup) found in many kinds of junk food and soda by providing corn and soybean growers with lucrative farm subsidies. In the last 12 years, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit public interest organization, the federal government has spent $56 billion keeping the price of corn low—which in turn keeps soda and junk food prices low, and consumption high.
These so-called “Nanny Laws,” says scientist and food activist Marion Nestle, Ph.D., a professor at New York University, are an attempt to make some government intervention work on behalf of consumers’ health instead of Big Business’s bottom line.
“Our food system already is government-regulated as can be,” says Nestle “These kinds of actions (banning trans fats, posting calories, imposing tax on junk foods) are just tweaking existing policy, in this case to promote better health.”
Additional articles of interest...
- Should Twinkies Carry Waring Labels?
- From USA Today - Debate on Obesity
- Obesity In America
- The Elephant in the Dining Room
- From the World Health Organization
- Some nations are now finding that obesity is killing more people than tobacco. I wonder how long it will be before the same happens in this country?
- Can We Become a Healthier Nation?
- 10 Tips To Reduce The Toll of Childhood Obesity
- Helping Children Make Healthy Food Choices
- Healthcare, Politics, and the High Cost of Healthy Foods
- Are You Eating The One Thing That Increases a Woman's Risk of Stroke?
How do you feel about the government passing regulations to help prevent obesity? Is it the only way for us to become a healthier nation? Let us know in comments.
*Image from Wikipedia
Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
Also at Catherine-Morgan.com