Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

I told you so. The scientific/bureaucratic complex, I warned in the Weekly Standard, now losing their fight to control the world’s economy in the global warming fight, would soon turn their attention to obesity and propose the same kind of “remedies” to control what we eat as they do carbon dioxide emissions. Tax!  Ban! Regulate! Control!  And then, tax some more!  Oh, and use some of those taxes to fund unending studies, staffers for government committees, bureaucratic paychecks, UN (live-high-on-the-hog) symposia, books, studies, inspectors, and an entire sector of food police to tell us what we can and can’t eat—all for our own good, of course, whether we want it or not.

Now, three scientists want to regulate sugar in foods in the same way we control alcohol and cigarettes, which would be an enormous undertaking.  They start by showing the scope of their ambitions.  From “The Toxic Truth About Sugar” (Abstract link only):

The UN announcement targets tobacco, alcohol and diet as the central risk factors in non-communicable disease. Two of these three — tobacco and alcohol — are regulated by governments to protect public health, leaving one of the primary culprits behind this worldwide health crisis unchecked. Of course, regulating food is more complicated — food is required, whereas tobacco and alcohol are non-essential consumables. The key question is: what aspects of the Western diet should be the focus of intervention?

How about none? Educate, sure. Regulate? Enough already!

But they have no intention of not trying to take control.  The authors urge that governments and international bureaucrats target sugar:
Passive smoking and drink-driving fatalities provided strong arguments for tobacco and alcohol control, respectively. The long-term economic, health-care and human costs of metabolic syndrome place sugar over-consumption in the same category

Once you centralize health care, costs of disease become the excuse to regulate anything and everything.  So, the authors argue, treat sugar like alcohol:
How can we reduce sugar consumption? After all, sugar is natural. Sugar is a nutrient. Sugar is pleasure. So too is alcohol, but in both cases, too much of a good thing is toxic. It may be helpful to look to the many generations of international experience with alcohol and tobacco to find models that work.So far, evidence shows that individually focused approaches, such as school-based interventions that teach children about diet and exercise, demonstrate little efficacy.

Gee, how about that? And, we have learned that where school diets are too stringent, the kids create a black market in verboten foods.  But never mind.  They then propose taxing many, if not most, of the processed foods sold today:
We propose adding taxes to processed foods that contain any form of added sugars. This would include sweetened fizzy drinks (soda), other sugar-sweetened beverages (for example, juice, sports drinks and chocolate milk) and sugared cereal.

Please, that’s not even the beginning of the list.  Pasta sauce often has added sugar, for example.  Not to mention frozen dinners, deserts, some breads, etc., etc., etc.  These, the authors urge, should be taxed to the hilt!
Statistical modelling suggests that the price would have to double to significantly reduce soda consumption — so a $1 can should cost $2.

Yes!  Let’s double the price of many foods.  Good grief.  And the control won’t stop with taxes:
Other successful tobacco- and alcohol-control strategies limit availability, such as reducing the hours that retailers are open, controlling the location and density of retail markets and limiting who can legally purchase the products.

A reasonable parallel for sugar would tighten licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell sugary products in schools and workplaces. Many schools have removed unhealthy fizzy drinks and candy from vending machines, but often replaced them with juice and sports drinks, which also contain added sugar. States could apply zoning ordinances to control the number of fast-food outlets and convenience stores in low-income communities, and especially around schools, while providing incentives for the establishment of grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

They even argue for placing age restrictions on the purchases of food with added sugar and—typically of the mindset—restrictions on speech.
Government-imposed regulations on the marketing of alcohol to young people have been quite effective, but there is no such approach to sugar-laden products. Even so, the city of San Francisco, California, recently banned the inclusion of toys with unhealthy meals such as some types of fast food. A limit — or, ideally, ban — on television commercials for products with added sugars could further protect children’s health.

San Francisco should never be a model for anything.  Besides, the regulation is a joke: McDonald’s just started charging 10 cents for the toy. No impact.  But it made the politicians feel important.

Here’s a novel idea for a real change in society:  Help us control our blood pressure. No more lifestyle bureaucrats and scientists trying to take over nearly everything we do and eat. Or to put it more plainly: Go away! Leave us alone! Amscray! Hit the road, Jack, and don’t you come back no more!

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles