Obesity Team Suggests Taxing Junk Foods More Than Healthy Eats

Obesity Team Suggests Taxing Junk Foods More Than Healthy Eats

CBC News    Feb 18, 2015

Mandatory nutrition standards for foods sold in schools could be one approach to tackle obesity.

Lancet study says voluntary measures for food industry called ineffective

The global obesity epidemic needs to be reconsidered in terms of regulatory controls to make it easier for people to choose healthier foods, according to a new medical journal series.

In Wednesday’s issue of The Lancet, researchers note that no country out of 187 has reversed its obesity epidemic, but child obesity rates have started to level off in some cities and countries with “patchy progress.”

For children, the focus needs to shift to prevention given the enormous threat, said one of the lead authors, Christina Roberto of the nutrition department at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“There are a number of factors that work against us when we try to avoid unhealthy food,” Roberto said.

“We are really programmed to like high fat, high sugar, high salt foods and there are plenty of them available. We have psychological vulnerabilities. The way foods are marketed, the portion sizes we’re given, being inundated with food messages all the time, that makes us want to overeat.”

Convenience foods also tend to be less healthy, while healthier options can cost more, Roberto said.

Countries around the world have successfully tested ideas such as:

  • Quebec’s ban on commercial advertising directed at children under the age of 13, which the Supreme Court of Canada upheld because of the vulnerability of children.
  • Mandatory nutrition standards for foods sold in schools.
  • Overhaul food labels to make them easier to understand.
  • Government planning to encourage nutritious purchases from farmers markets, facilitate physical activity through bike lanes and green spaces and speed limits along school routes.
  • Brazil’s program that favours fresh, local, non-processed foods for children to eat in school meals.
  • Michelle Obama’s efforts to engage the food industry to improve nutritional quality of school menu items.

Other examples of policy solutions included:

  • Tax “health-related” foods less than junk foods.
  • Limit price promotions at point of sale, such as candy displays at the checkout.
  • Give nutrition education such as cooking classes in school.

There’s no shortage of ideas, but governments need the courage to implement them, Roberto said.

In countries such as India and Mexico, children’s heights are consistently below the World Health Organization’s reference values. “Tackling of overweight and underheight simultaneously will need a coherent nutrition policy to promote children’s health and prevent poor nutrition in all of its forms,” Tim Lobstein of the World Obesity Federation and his team said in another research paper.

Lobstein is also concerned with how highly processed foods and sweetened beverages contain ingredients to condition the taste buds of children to a lifetime of energy-rich, nutrient-poor foods.

Internationally, there are now more industry-led pledges on food advertising to children than government regulations, but the scope needs to be broader, with more nutritious criteria and better enforcement, the researchers said.

Voluntary measures ‘ineffective’ 

In Canada, Bill Jeffrey, national co-ordinator for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, said the federal government or other provinces could expand Quebec’s advertising ban or change how higher taxes are applied to fresh fruit salad compared with sugar-loaded cereals.

“There’s a large appetite for doing voluntary measures with the food industry which demonstrably are ineffective,” Jeffrey said, commenting on the findings.

“The food industry is a formidable force in Canada. When you try to apply regulatory controls to them, they fight back. I think that’s a big part of the problem. People are not fully aware of the extent to which large companies really do try to resist good public health policy.”

At a grocery store in Toronto, Yasmine Halfnight said she’d welcome more regulations and education. Her daughter Grace is not yet two and already has food preferences based on appearance.

“She’ll see something with a Sesame Street character and she wants that,” Halfnight said.

Opposite ideas, such as individual responsibility versus environmental factors often shape the debate and stall progress, Roberto said, but increased efforts could make serious strides toward halting the obesity epidemic.

source: www.cbc.ca

8 thoughts on “Obesity Team Suggests Taxing Junk Foods More Than Healthy Eats

  1. I am all for healthy eating, exercise and avoiding junk foods, but the government doesn’t need to stick its giant nose into my diet or kitchen. People have to learn to take responsibility for themselves. Our frontal lobes is where our impulse control lies. We need to use them to direct our food choices and our lives.

    1. Unfortunately Tony, many people are brainwashed and groomed to make poor choices by large greedy corporations. Huge companies do almost anything to keep the profits rolling in, even if it’s at the cost of the health of consumers. I believe or governments have a responsibility to do what’s best for people other than the fat cats who are not willing to change their greedy ways.

      1. But, at least in term of business, if the people stop buying the crap food, the businesses will stop selling it. Nobody puts a gun to your head and says, “Buy that Big Mac.” With business we have the right to vote with our feet and walk away. Once the govt gets involved, it just gets messy.

    2. I agree with you, Tony. I realized some people are weak and need the government to implement certain measures. The strong needs to inspire and help the weak rather than despise them. The weak need help.

  2. It’s already messy. Obesity is a major problem in North America. Unfortunately, many people are unable to make good choices due to greedy corporations. Something needs to be done and many consumers on their own are not able to make healthy choices.

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