Should The Government Control What We Can Eat?

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 signs of it getting any better on it’s 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, for so many people that is just not an option.  To make matters worse, it’s now believed that junk food can be as addicting as cocaine.

What can be done?

I don’t think there is one way to fix this problem, but I do think that something needs to be done. Here is a graph showing preventable causes of death…

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.

Can We Legislate Ourselves Thinner?

“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?

From iVillage

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

Also See

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

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10 comments for “Should The Government Control What We Can Eat?

  1. Catherine Morgan
    April 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Hi Wendy. I guess “control’ is a bit of a strong word for these proposed policies. But I do think the government has a responsibility to make sure our food supply is safe, and right now it isn’t. I think manufacturers of processed and fast foods need stronger regulations when it comes to what they are allowed to pass off to consumers as food. We wouldn’t let these companies add known poisons to our food, even if they claimed they made the food taste better…But that’s essentially what is happening now. Studies have found that if we allow this to continue, the life expectancy of our children will be 15-20 years shorter than our own. It’s scary.

  2. April 15, 2010 at 10:04 am

    The words Government and Control together are bad, in my opinion, no matter what you are talking about. I prefer to be responsible for my own actions and think everyone else should do the same.

  3. April 16, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Hmmm, interesting post. I tend to agree with the iVillage piece. Government cannot be trusted to administrate food policy, as it is partially responsible for the current epidemic of obesity and food related problems in our society.

    Agricultural subsidies for mono-culture crops like corn and soy have encouraged the food industry to produce vast quantities of cheap, processed food. This has produced economic wealth and made lots of big corporations rich, but at the cost of the nation’s health.

  4. Diana Lee
    April 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    I’d love to see the government subsidize fresh fruits & veggies & protein the way it has subsidized corn & inadvertently contributed to the obesity epidemic by helping high fructose corn syrup to take over the grocery aisles.

  5. Catherine Morgan
    April 20, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    @ Raw Food Guy — Thanks for your comment…I agree, big corporations have gotten rich at the cost of our nation’s health.


    @ Diane Lee — Hi Diane, thanks for your comment…I would love to see the government find a way to subsidize healthier foods like fruits and vegetables.

  6. Natalie
    April 28, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    This is another sceme to tax people to death. Never mind sluggish thyroids, never mind hysterectomy’s, never mind low metabolism conditions, never mind genetics, never mind the government fattened up the poor on starchy potatoes, cheese, noodles and free peanut butter for decades! It’s shameful these health nuts or former anorexic freaks are going around preaching and complaining about that fat people, the fatty fatty 2 by 4’s who can’t fit throught the bathroom door! These people are calling fat people unhealthy pigs a big cow! This is playground bully crap against a group they now call obese, fat, blubber freaks, and other sub-names but try to politely say it’s “obese”! Geeish a diet of nothing but rabbit food and fruit and veggies……..who buys my groceries? The day these people who are calling others fatso can start buying and paying for my groceries, then lets talk about what anyone can eat or not!

  7. Natalie
    April 28, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    We have homeless, children starving in America and now some chick goes out and gets a degree and thinks she is Miss Food know it all. LQQK around people, what does the bottom of your coffee cup say? Hmmm mine says made in Korea, here is one made in China, my desk lamp says made in China, my computer says made in China, oh here is an item made in India, my dish says Taiwan. Go to the window and see how many Toyota’s, Nissans, Honda’s and other foreign automobiles you see. Laid off? Where are you going to find another job if most everything around you is foreign made? What is being American made is taxed to death, your cigars, cigarettes, beer and now food and soft drinks? Enough is enough don’t you think?

  8. February 14, 2011 at 7:40 am

    It’s would be great if government in any country will control production of food. As much as we eat a healthy food – as much long we can live.
    But today – too much food is so bad quality…

  9. Ghost writer
    April 15, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Ha ha ha. What a joke. Lmfao. It all comes down to the govt. Wanting to have full control of us. I read on here of pple saying that they should have some kind of control of what restaurants and fast food should serve because it’s fattening and bad for us. Guess what there’s a little word called choice. You can choose not to eat that type of food. As far as saying the reason for this action is because people dying of obesity is bs. How many people die a year from drunk driving and smoking? No debate about wanting to do anything about that. Instead prices get raised on cigarettes and they claim its to get us to stop smoking. Bs if that was the case stop putting addictive chemicals in them. It all comes down to more money in there pockets. Has anyone ever noticed price of healthy food? It costs more than the fattening food.

  10. March 27, 2012 at 6:55 am

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