Nutrition in the News: Guest column by Melanie Fischer

This column is written in response to the article titled “Study: Sin taxes promote healthier food choices” featured on Time’s wellness blog. To view the original article, visit http://wellness.blogs.time.com/2010/03/10/study-sin-taxes-promote-healthier-food-choices/

This is an interesting article.  I think they’re ignoring a lot of extra factors, but it’s a very interesting start.  I’m generally against government taxes on subjective things like “proper” choices, but if the obesity epidemic is going to cost us money in the long run, I guess the taxes could be justified as a cost-preventitive measure.  I still don’t think the tax is the best thing, because that raises the question of how we define and quantitatively measure what’s “healthy.”  There are too many factors, such as good and bad fats, additives, organic, and then misleading labels. 

For example, companies can say “no trans fat” when in reality the product could contain up to .5g trans fat.  (Oreos.)  There’s always going to be a gray area.  Not to mention, the FDA probably doesn’t have the manpower to have a team sit there and analyze all of the factors that go into defining a healthy food.  However, as someone who frequently pays $10 for a salad when everyone else is paying $5 for a sandwich at lunch, I’d be extremely (albeit selfishly) happy if the cost would even out a bit.
 
Another option that isn’t mentioned, but should be considered, is to simply stop with all the high fructose corn syrup and other additives and go more natural.  For example:  Not that soda is by any means natural, but in the UK it’s made with legitimate cane sugar (still processed, but is not as bad as HFCS).  It tastes BETTER.  It’s not overly sweet, has fewer calories, and is a nice treat.  The bottle sizes are also smaller, so you satisfy your craving without going overboard.  If going an entire day without soda is not an option, then you’ve got a great compromise.  There’s no reason we can’t do this with other foods too.  A tax incentive would probably need to be provided to the companies, but beyond that, there would be no struggle to regulate the cost of individual food products.  It is a problem, though, that healthy choices really are so much more expensive than a frozen pizza and a bag of cookies.

By: Melanie Fischer, HR/Accounting professional at Avalere Health in Washington, DC.

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~ by therealnutritionist on March 17, 2010.

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