The key to delivering a better food future for everyone is moving beyond individual change into the public realm. We must act collectively, pressuring governments to use their regulatory and legislative powers to emphasize health, sustainability and fairness.
They're coming first for your devilish Coca-Cola and Pepsi. But they aren't stopping there. They also want taxes on sugary fruit juice (you sinister Sun-Rype suckers!), and anything else that tastes slightly better than water. It won't end -- because big government types truly believe higher taxes can solve every problem -- there's no evidence it will work.
This week, two European tourists complained about the Canadian car culture after a brief stint in the 10 million square kilometer nation of over 35-million people. The British and Danish complainers now reside in Aarhus, Denmark. While I support criticizing a country, it is also good to have the facts in order. To that end, here are some stats Chabowski should have taken into account before making rush judgments on Canadian society.
Experience suggests that policies like fat/'junk food' taxes, vending machine bans, menu labelling requirements, reduced availability of particular foods, simplified or directive food labels, graphic warning labels, zoning restrictions, and advertising restrictions, will not be successful at reducing the prevalence of excess weight.
Is it really that surprising that students prefer inexpensive fast-food meals like a burger and fries, instead of overpriced and smaller portioned salads from government-approved cafeteria menus? Like Homer Simpson taught his daughter Lisa, "You don't win friends with salad!" And the government's healthy menus program is certainly not winning any friends in Ontario's high schools.
Health associations have long been calling for a "fat tax"; taxes on foods that some nutritionists and researchers don't want us to eat or drink. Unfortunately, the lack of sound thinking behind vilifying sugary drinks or less healthful snacks has not changed, nor has the blunt, imprecise, and unfair nature of a "junk food" or "sugary drink" tax. Overly simplistic solutions to obesity that vilify an industry or food product are bad public policy. The reality is that "junk food" taxes or sugary drink taxes are ineffective instruments that fail to recognize the complex and manifold causes of obesity. It's time we put the idea of such taxes in their rightful place: the junk bin.
After studying about three million cases, the authors of a new study found that for people who are older than 60, having a body-mass index (BMI) that ranks you as overweight may reduce your mortality risk. And while obese people had a greater mortality risk over all, those at the lowest level of obesity were not more likely to die during a given period than people of normal weight. The reception to this data has not been kind.
If Canada has a weight issue (and increasing amount of studies say that it definitely does), should our physicians be doing more? The answer seems to be yes, but the problem is that docs aren't doing much in terms of preventative care for their patients.
The idea of a fat or sugar tax in British Columbia continues to pop up like the pesky mole in that old midway game. Unfortunately, it's taxpayers -- and the provincial economy -- that would get whacked by such a tax. Supporters of such a flawed taxation policy should look to Denmark's experience for a textbook example of why it doesn't work.
Provinces that propose to tax sugary beverages may increase their general revenues; but as a strategy to reduce the severe chronic illness and huge financial costs associated with obesity, it will fail to accomplish anything -- except expanding the power of bureaucrats.