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Rants / Debates (Serious) > Should we regulate things that make people fat? Is crap food cheaper than healthy food?>> potatoes: yay or nay?

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message 1: by RandomAnthony (last edited Dec 19, 2008 09:02AM) (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments I just read a little about this "obesity tax" that the governor of NY wants to regulate soft drink sales:


Also, in Milwaukee recently people protested when some chicken place was opening because they felt the restaurant was too unhealthy.

What do you think? Should the government regulate unhealthy food the same way they do cigarettes? Or is this a personal choice thing and if people choose to eat unhealthy food, well, that's their right?

What do you think?

message 2: by Gåry! (new)

Gåry! (garyneill) Regulate Darwinism at work? The choice is your own, however, when it impacts ME because I have to pay more for insurance, Doctor's visits, taxes to cover Medicare costs, etc... I believe some regulation might be in order.

message 3: by Sally, la reina (new)

Sally (mrsnolte) | 17338 comments Mod
I think that is a fine idea. People are people but the corporations who make the food as cheap as possible and put the addictive, fattening fillers in crap to turn a profit are the ones who piss me off.

message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 19, 2008 09:34AM) (new)

Bacon on everything!

When Taco Bell started using bacon, I was dumbfounded.

shellyindallas I'm for it, I guess, I mean on the surface anyway. But I'm skeptical about how much a tax will curb consumption. I don't know anyone who quit smoking b/c they raised the tax on a pack of cigarettes. But, maybe they do...maybe some don't start b/c it's too expensive.

message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) I'm against it. I'm against higher taxes and government sticking their noses in where they don't belong. This is stupid.

message 7: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy I'm against exactly the same things Sarah is against.

Unfortunately, it's not quite straightforward enough to be just "stupid." Gary is exactly right, first of all, that there's a social cost to epidemic obesity, diabetes (typeII), hypertension, and other diet-based disorders. The bigger problem, though, is how the government has been subsidizing corn production to have it sell below cost for so many years (corn, of course, being the originate of high fructose corn syrup). The ubiquity of unhealthy food in the world markets today is a strong function of agricultural policy. It might be reasonable, along with agricultural reform, to atone for the unintended side effects of these irresponsible policies by promoting health through other policies, such as sin taxes like this one.

But really, this a classic example of government interference leading to problems needing more government interference.

message 8: by Gåry! (new)

Gåry! (garyneill) What Isaiah said.

message 9: by Félix (last edited Dec 19, 2008 01:58PM) (new)

Félix (habitseven) An unholy alliance of unsustainable agribusiness, and petrochemicals, with government in their pocket, has been pushing unhealthy food on us for 50 years or so -- pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and high-fructose corn syrup for which whole markets were created.

message 10: by Cyril (new)

Cyril I only eat wild berries and mushrooms. Please don't regulate me!

message 11: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Right, because on that diet, you should be regular enough.

message 12: by Félix (new)

Félix (habitseven) I don't know. Some of those wild berries can make you pretty loose.

message 13: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24292 comments Mod
I would like to see us stop subsidizing corn production, as industrial corn products are the root of so much evil. But if we stop subsidizing cheap food, how will poor people afford it? Eating healthily is more expensive than eating poorly.

message 14: by Jammies (new)

Jammies Lobstergirl wrote: "...Eating healthily is more expensive than eating poorly."

No, it's not. See Britt's thread about cheap healthy food for tips. What eating healthy takes that most of the poor don't have is time and education.

message 15: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24292 comments Mod
I agree that you can be poor and still eat better than a McDonald's diet. However, if you wanted to eat only organic, which a lot of people think is healthier, that costs more money.

What eating healthy takes that most of the poor don't have is time and education.

This may be partly true (although it doesn't take into account food deserts - poor people living in the ghetto with literally no good quality grocery stores around). But time and education both translate into money. A poor person might be working two jobs and have zero time. If they quit a job so they'd have more free time, that would be expensive for them.

message 16: by Louise (new)

Louise You can regulate the companies, like the fats McDonalds in the U.S. use for stir frying their fries are illegal in Europe, so they have to use something healthier.
So if you regulate the companies, then they can't use the most unhealthy fats/dyes etc in food - if they want to be able to sell them in the U.S!
We do that a lot in Denmark. We also have extra taxes on sugar, alcohol and cigarettes.

message 17: by Ken (new)

Ken (playjerist) | 721 comments Eating a healthier diet is without question more costly than subsisting on cheaper fare, particularly fast food. The effect of fast food is to provide high caloric intake at a cheap price. The problem for low income parents with kids is that growing kids actually need a lot of calories. Healthier food can provide the necessary intake, but it requires a lot more of it, and it gets expensive. You want your kids to feel full after eating a meal, and a quarter-pounder and fries will do that cheaply and quickly. When it comes to the health of the children there’s no question it would greatly benefit from getting calories through a diet less dependent on fat and carbs. But those healthier meals, in the quantities necessary to fill up the kids require more money and a great deal more preparation, neither of which low income and working class families have.

There’s also a basic physiological attraction to fast foods for people who do physical or menial labor all day long. Carbohydrates actually raise the serotonin levels in the brain, meaning there literally is physical comfort in what we refer to as comfort food. So for the person cleaning offices all day or toiling in the stock room of the local Target, super-sized fries really do the trick, the gateway to a nice after-dinner snooze in front of the tube.

message 18: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I think the food desert issue really can't be overlooked. There are huge areas of Baltimore in which the only places you can buy food are the convenience store, McDonald's, or "New York Fried Chicken." The only chance of seeing a piece of fruit or a veggie is if you live on an arabber route. The bus system is not a good one for getting to and from a grocery store - not that getting groceries home on a bus is ever fun.

We do have a fantastic new program that allows people in two inner city neighborhoods to order groceries from a real grocery store and have them delivered to the local library at a set pickup time. That's when the education piece comes in. Even when you have the whole store in front of you, you may not know that some of the more deceptive processed foods are bad for you, or how to make use of the non processed stuff, or how to make it taste good.

message 19: by Louise (new)

Louise Here we mark healthy food with a green keyhole, especially in frozen ready to eat meals, meat pies etc it's helpful.

message 20: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments Louise, what gets the green keyhole? Is it low sodium? Organic? Free of additives?
Here part of the problem is that anyone can use words like "natural" or "healthy choice" but only a careful read can tell you the truth.
"Organic" is regulated. "Cage free" and "Free range" have specific definitions.
"Pasture raised" is good, but doesn't tell you whether the animal was pasture finished or feedlot finished.

message 21: by Jammies (new)

Jammies My first post in this thread was a little too terse and came off sounding simplistic. When people say, "Bad food is cheaper than good food, therefore poor people eat bad food," it sounds to me like a copout. Bad food IS cheaper in terms of opportunity cost and availablility, but why aren't we as a society doing something to fix the educational and food desert issues rather than slapping a bandaid tax on french fries? Who is that tax actually going to help? Certainly not the people who will go right on buying stuff that costs less.

Rather than yet another tax, I'd like to see things like more education about nutrition, tax rebates for grocery stores opening in food deserts, things like that.

And I have no idea how it would work, but what if there was something like a carbon offset available for the companies that sell all that HFCS/transfat/fried stuff? McDonalds, for example, could get a fat offset by subsidizing a farmer's market. <--Clearly, this idea needs work.

message 22: by Jammies (new)

Jammies Oh, yeah, we started off talking about a soda tax, didn't we? We've had that in Ohio for decades, and despite Coke and Pepsi's lobbying, they haven't managed to get pop classified as food and therefore un-taxed yet.

So yes, I'm in favor of soda taxes.

message 23: by Phil (new)

Phil | 11671 comments BunWat wrote: "it does take on a certain Rube Goldberg quality."

I would have gone with Escher.

message 24: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24292 comments Mod
I have seen small scale initiatives reported on in the media for things like farmer's markets, and vegetable gardens, in the inner cities. It's not enough to serve everyone of course, but it's a tiny start. I have no idea if the prices at the farmer's markets are affordable for poor people, or if they do things like take food stamps (I think I remember hearing this was being tried in a few places). But as to Ken's point, you still have the issue of these great vegetables not being filling enough, and not being meat.

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Is there any real evidence to support that organic fruit & veg is more healthy than the alternative (I am talking fresh not processed). I heard recently that there wasn't, I will have to try and find my source.

These food deserts you talk about seem very scary and hard to imagine. I hope we don't have them here. I haven't heard of them, but I do live in a bubble.

message 26: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24292 comments Mod
I usually don't buy organic. It costs 2x-3x more than regular produce and I don't see 2x-3x health benefit accruing to my body.

message 27: by [deleted user] (last edited May 31, 2011 07:42PM) (new)

Here, there are very specific guide lines which determine whether produce can be labelled 'organic'. I assume you have something similar?

If only I ate tomatoes.

message 28: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24292 comments Mod
I haven't bought a fresh, delicious, nice-textured tomato at the grocery in years. I pretty much only buy canned tomatoes now. Maybe I'll see if the ones at the farmer's market are any good later in the summer.

message 29: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24292 comments Mod
USDA testing finds 30-plus unapproved pesticides on the herb cilantro

"We are not really sure why the cilantro came up with these residues," said Chris Pappas, a chemist who oversees the Virginia-based USDA pesticide testing. Researchers suspect growers may have confused guidelines for cilantro and flat-leaf parsley, for which more pesticides are approved.

data show that 44 percent of cilantro samples had residues of at least one pesticide not approved for use on that crop — "higher than I have ever seen" in nearly a decade of analyzing the USDA's pesticide reports.

By comparison, only about 5 percent of spinach samples and 2 percent of apples had at least one pesticide that violated federal rules

Washing did not remove the unapproved pesticides found on cilantro samples tested by USDA.

Pappas, of the USDA, advised consumers who are still worried to follow his lead and plant their own.

"I grow cilantro on my deck," he said. "There is less waste because I only take as much as I need, which is only a little at a time, and it's always fresh. If someone is really concerned, they can do that too."


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

By comparison, only about 5 percent of spinach...

See, not even the pests like spinach.

(I really like spinach, but it just had to be said.)

message 31: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I think one of the chief advantages of organic is definitely in the lack of pesticide residue. Some produce is worth buying organic and other not - mostly the thick peeled stuff like avos and mangos and pineapple.

message 32: by Lila (new)

Lila | 146 comments What if taxing processed food makes eating hard to afford for lower income families? I think healthier food should come down in price and the "junk" food should cost more. It is a shame that so many people cannot afford to eat healthily. And education really needs vamping up!

message 33: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments It's not likely that healthier food will come down in price. Really, it's amazing that food is as cheap as it is. The reason the processed items are so cheap is that they're barely made of food. Corn syrup, corn starch, a thousand other corn products, sugar: all so heavily subsidized that they are put in EVERYTHING.

message 34: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24292 comments Mod
I read an article about the science of flavoring. The reporter was in one of the major industrial food manufacturers. They had a chef on staff whose job was to make tasty recipes out of fresh, natural ingredients, which the factory would then imitate using completely artificial and processed ingredients. They had this base product (described as a tasteless "slurry") to which flavors and textures were then added. So the chef would make a delicious natural guacamole, for example, and the scientists would duplicate the flavors of the guacamole using artificial ingredients and add them to the slurry. Ready for the grocery store!

message 35: by Louise (last edited Jun 07, 2011 03:33AM) (new)

Louise Sarah Pi wrote: "Louise, what gets the green keyhole? Is it low sodium? Organic? Free of additives?
Here part of the problem is that anyone can use words like "natural" or "healthy choice" but only a careful read c..."

The Nordic governments have set down the rules for the green keyhole, based on scientific nutrition knowledge.
Food with a healthy balance of ingredients - in relation to recommended daily intakes, can get it. I don't know the numbers, but there can't be much sugar, salt, animalistic fats etc. Whereas vegetables, wholegrain etc have high values.

Here all supermarkets have a section for fresh fruit and vegetables, I don't think there are any areas where that's hard to come by!

message 36: by Deanne (new)

Deanne B | 1 comments Highly processed foods and anything that has origins in industrial farming are unappetizing to me, and I believe that the whole world would be better off without our insatiable demand for the fastest, cheapest, and easiest of all things (without any concern for where it comes from or how it is produced), including food. However, I don't think that government regulation is an appropriate response to the 'fast food nation'. Governments tend to fraternize with the elite of the very corporations that are responsible for peddling this junk, and until they arrest their own efforts to generate and sustain a need in the market for basically unnecessary commodities... which would be counterproductive to their aim of profit... people will still indulge in the fast/processed food options. Only this time around, the government would get a slice of the McPie themselves, adding another layer of incentive towards the now mutual goal of sustaining demand for the product.
I have to admit that I am pretty cynical about this particular issue. If, at large, the physical consequences of bad food ever disgust people enough to stop buying it, then I will be impressed.

message 37: by Jim (new)

Jim | 6485 comments Welcome to TC Deanne.

message 38: by Louise (new)

Louise Hello Deanne :-)

We don't have the same lobby etc here as you do in the U.S. I think - and I'm sure the industry thinks that sucks. But we've had a lot of gouvernments that would make your liberals look ultra-right-wing, so several independent gouvernment departments have been made, to control and regulate especially food industry and environmental issues

message 39: by Meels (last edited Jun 21, 2011 11:51AM) (new)

Meels (amelia) I have a perfect right to eat myself into a heart attack at 48, if that is my choice. It's none of your business! I pay my insurance premiums (100% btw), I can eat as much McDonald's as I want. Hell, I'm 40 years old (in August) with no kids, I can drink Hershey's chocolate syrup for dinner while eating a stick of butter while in the nude. If they start trying to regulate what I eat in this country I'm either going to have to go to jail, move, or start building the compound!

message 40: by Jammies (new)

Jammies Nude butter?

message 41: by Meels (new)

Meels (amelia) Smarty pants.

message 42: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24292 comments Mod
Amelia wrote: "I have a perfect right to eat myself into a heart attack at 48, if that is my choice. It's none of your business! I pay my insurance premiums (100% btw), I can eat as much McDonald's as I want. ..."

The FDA and the USDA already do regulate what you eat.

message 43: by Meels (new)

Meels (amelia) You have a point, but you know what I mean. If they start outlawing salt and fat etc...

message 44: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24292 comments Mod
I wouldn't worry about that. The food products/additives they subsidize are much more likely to be unhealthful than healthful. Industrial corn, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, etc.

message 45: by Meels (new)

Meels (amelia) Somebody was trying to regulate the amount of salt they could use in NY restaurants! Ridiculous. Politicians have some pretty big things to be worrying about at the minute and they're fussing over salt content and plastic bag bans...

message 46: by Louise (new)

Louise But public health is so very expensive. Here, where everyone have free health care, the amounts used on treating people with diseases caused by obesity and smoking etc is so vast, and could be used on a lot of other things, so there's good reason for trying to influence people to be more healthy.

message 47: by Meels (new)

Meels (amelia) We don't have public health care...not yet anyway. I prefer my freedom. You can suggest whatever you want, but the choice should still be mine.

message 48: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments What about those who can't afford to get to a place where they have a choice, Amelia?
Or those who have conditions that get them dumped by their provider or jack up their rates to the point where they can't afford to keep their insurance?

message 49: by Meels (new)

Meels (amelia) What do you mean, "...can't afford to get to a place where they have a choice..."? Meaning they are below poverty level so they can't afford healthier food (I do agree crap food is cheaper in most cases and a whole lot faster and easier as well in a lot of cases.), or they live in a country that doesn't give them the freedom to have choices?

In either case I'm not sure what that has to do with me not wanting my government dictating to me how I can eat?

message 50: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 13815 comments I thought you were saying you prefer your freedom when it comes to health care and the choice to have it - i.e. no public health care. If that wasn't what you were saying and you were actually talking about food choices, my apologies.

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