Nanny State

Wanted: Objective Scientific Studies of Ways to Constrain the Anti-Social Behavior of Evil, Food-Foisting Corporations

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The Journal of Public Health Policy is seeking articles that propose ways to "change the behavior of the food industry." Co-Editor Anthony Robbins, a professor of public health at Tufts, and NYU nutritionist Marion Nestle, who serves on the journal's editorial board, explain:

The processed foods that reach US consumers, and increasingly people in all high-income countries, are remarkably inexpensive, tasty, and convenient to prepare. They are intensely marketed and highly profitable to corporate producers. Where does the profit come from? In part, it comes from use of subsidized commodities. But profits are also generated by capturing increasingly larger shares of the market and by selling the population more food—and calories—than it needs. In this marketing environment, obesity is collateral damage.

The food industry's ultimately anti-social behavior—whether conscious or inadvertent—is spreading globally….Signs of marketing efforts by multi-national food corporations are appearing everywhere in developing countries….

The tobacco analogy: this industry, which deliberately encouraged children to become addicted to cigarettes as early as possible, then continued to market cigarettes even once well aware of the health dangers. We now know the health dangers of obesity, but the epidemic continues. To protect the public, perhaps we can learn from anti-smoking efforts about means to constrain the food industry.

As public health advocates, we know all too well that teaching the world's population about the dangers of obesity and the need to avoid obesogenic foods that are inexpensive, tasty, and convenient will never work if food corporations are permitted to continue to spend massively to encourage the public to eat more of their products. Efforts to control obesity will have to enlist the public to focus on behavior, with a shift from a sole focus on citizens to a new one on the behavior of food corporations.

Food is not cigarettes. We must eat to live. We cannot eliminate the food industry to reverse the obesity epidemic, but we can constrain its anti-social behavior….

We have come to believe that research studies concentrating on personal behavior and responsibility as causes of the obesity epidemic do little but offer cover to an industry seeking to downplay its own responsibility.

Robbins and Nestle are right that the government has no business subsidizing (or otherwise manipulating) agriculture. But neither does it have any business censoring speech that it fears will influence people to eat unhealthy diets (or behave in other ways it does not like). That, at any rate, is the classical liberal view, which  Robbins and Nestle may not share. But they should at least acknowledge this is a moral and philosophical issue, insteading of concealing their political preferences in the language of science and "public health." Their view that bad consumption habits are foisted on people by evil corporations, which arbitrarily produce certain goods (such as "foods that are inexpensive, tasty, and convenient") and then trick people into buying them, is common among leftish critics of capitalism. One can imagine studies that might test the empirical implications of this assumption. Instead Robbins and Nestle jump straight to their conclusion that government must "constrain the food industry," leaving open only the question of exactly how to do that.

More on the anti-market mentality of anti-obesity crusaders here and here.

NEXT: Towards a Fairer, Simpler Tax System

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  1. The tobacco drug analogy: this industry, which deliberately encouraged children to become addicted to cigarettes drugs as early as possible, then continued to market cigarettes drugs even once well aware of the health dangers. We now know the health dangers of obesity, but the epidemic continues. To protect the public, perhaps we can learn from anti-smoking drug efforts about means to constrain the food industry.

    See? The drug war, it’s everywhere

    1. The tobacco “scientific study” analogy: this industry, which deliberately encourages children to become addicted to cigarettes credulous when judging anything called a “scientific study” as early as possible, then continued to market cigarettes “scientific studies” even once well aware of the health educational dangers. We now know the health dangers of obesity, but the epidemic continues. To protect the public, perhaps we can learn from anti-smokingidiot efforts about means to constrain the food industry.

      Would that we had that campaign. And the “scientific study” industry consists almost entirely on subsidies.

  2. But neither does it have any business censoring speech that it fears will influence people to eat unhealthy diets (or behave in other ways it does not like).

    Free speech is paramount. The simple solution is to make it illegal to purchase and/or consume inexpensive, tasty and convenient food. Or, fuck it, just criminalize fatties.

    1. Put them in manditory fat camps.

  3. Call me a burger-inhaling Amerifat lardass fatty mcfatterson, but I’d rather have too much food then too little. And if I were living in a country with massive amounts of choice in what food I can eat, I’d be pretty ashamed of myself lecturing those in developing countries on what they should and should not eat.

    1. Didn’t Norman Borlaug say pretty much the same thing….that the people making food policy for the third world have never gone to bed hungry.

    2. Call me a burger-inhaling Amerifat lardass fatty mcfatterson, but I’d rather have too much food then too little.

      They don’t want you to have too little. They want you to have the right amount, as determined by an appointed panel of nutritionist luminaries. A food Czar, if you will.

    3. Poor people having too much food is a pretty good problem to have, I would say.

    4. The nerve of those food companies!

      Offering us food that is convenient, inexpensive, and tastes great!

      Have they no shame??

  4. I want to bash the face of anyone who uses the phrase “anti social” with a wooden bat. Does that make me anti social?

    1. I want to bash the face of anyone who uses the phrase “anti social” with a wooden bat. Does that make me anti social?

      Not at all. As long as you get together with other people to bash faces, it isn’t anti-social.

  5. I bet they sell that remarkably inexpensive, tasty, and convenient to prepare food at Wal-Mart.

    1. Inexpensive, tasty and convenient food is likely served at festive events such as tractor pulls too.

      1. Just got a hankerin’ for a corndog.

        1. I have discovered that articles of food such, for instance, as wieners, boiled ham, hard boiled eggs, cheese, sliced peaches, pineapples, bananas and like fruit, and cherries, dates, figs, strawberries, etc., when impaled on sticks and dipped in batter, which includes in its ingredients a self rising flour, and then deep fried in a vegetable oil at a temperature of about 390? F., the resultant food product on a stick for a handle is a clean, wholesome and tasty refreshment.

          Holy shit, cornpeaches? That sounds amazing.

          1. Come to the Minnesota State Fair, Warty (enjoy):

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-5Lr2IhB_o

        2. Just for you Mainer… A Corn Dog Factory

          Gods I love ThinkGeek.

  6. Or, fuck it, just criminalize fatties.

    Now that I think about it…

    The people I know who regularly indulge in antisocial food are the ones with a metabolic or lifestyle immunity to becoming a fatass. And when I’m out at a food corporation enjoying cheap tasty things and not being fat with my not-fat pals, I’m surrounded by normal-looking people in a hurry (and skinny crackheads), not People of WalMart.

    Meanwhile, the vegetarian sit-down place on the end of my block is full of living lard-loafs sweating onto bike-wheel-sized plates of choad tofu in foot sauce, and the air coming out of there smells like white-hot bum pussy.

    So, I’m for it.

    1. must…stifle…laughter

    2. Don’t forget the gourmet restaurants. As wonderfully skewered on Penn and Teller’s Bullshit episode on fast food.

      We need to ban the low class fattening food, because those white trash tractor pulling hicks don’t know how to moderate their consumption. Now leave me to my 10,000 calorie meal.

  7. What we need is a new Food Pyramid, maybe this time with even more bread at the bottom. That’ll fix this obesity shit right the fuck up.

    1. As long as it’s fat free bread so no one will get fat no matter how much they eat!

  8. Those sneaky corporate bastards, subverting consumers’ natural desires for expensive, tasteless, difficult to prepare food.

  9. Robbins is just jealous that his partner, Baskin got all the credit.

    And don’t even ask Nestle about Hershey.

    1. Hit the highway.

  10. Just implement a fat tax. Bonus: fewer fat chicks.

    1. Wrong…the result will be poor fat chicks.

  11. We need some Cap’n’Trade.

    Calorie credits anyone?

  12. Food is evil and must be controlled. Only the elites should enjoy good nutrition.

  13. We cannot eliminate the food industry to reverse the obesity epidemic, but we can constrain its anti-social behavior….

    Wait, these statist pukes want to forcibly restrain the food industry, with the gummint’s goon squads, from behaving in certain ways and the food industry is the anti-social actor?

    How does one manage to live, so detached from this universe?

    1. We cannot eliminate the food industry…

      Translation: “We would if we could.”

  14. I don’t advocate this, but giving the CEO’s of the food corporations ECT until they make the desired changes would probably work. It’s about as moral as other options for controlling food choice, and it is more effective.

  15. The first thing they should do is go after YELP on the Internet. People love to post which place has the greasiest, fattiest french fries and burgers, with the most generous portions.

    For some strange reason, people don’t make many posts about carrot juice, salads and raw vegetables.

    I plan to head up this Government Commission to squelch this anti-social behavior. I have coined a new term to describe things such as raving about french fries and burgers; FOOD PORNOGRAPHY!!
    And if you target kids with junk food what out!!

  16. Prepare for (another) onslaught of scholarly articles promoting “libertarian paternalism” as a means to the food police’s ends…

  17. “obesogenic” Fuck.

    Also, it is funny that one of the authors is named Nestle (the original evil multinational food company).

  18. I’m addicted to frozen tortellini romano. Holy shit that stuff is good.

  19. Yes, just a little nudge, that’s all we’ll ever do. Just like that tiny warning panel on the side of a pack of cigs.

  20. We need to remove agricultural subsidies AND change food policy to support the increase of access to healthy foods for low income people particularly and all people in general. I believe we can increase access and lower costs of healthy foods (mainly fresh produce) without doing anything to punish or discourage corporations from manufacturing or marketing “junk food”. Give people real choices.

    1. How do you propose to have a “food policy” with absolutely no compulsion?

  21. Here’s my MPH thesis on the “obesity epidemic”:
    Step 1: Realize that correlation doesn’t imply causation, not even in a kinda-sorta-maybe way.
    Step 2: Realize that the actual deposition of fat in the body, NOT BMI, is what any respectable doctor would say increases your risk of serious illness.
    Step 3: Remember that no one has done a study proving that elevated BMI actually causes those illnesses.
    Step 4: Remember that the whole hysteria about obesity is based on studies of population trends in BMI, which, based on Steps 1-3, actually don’t prove anything.
    Step 5: Conclude that you need to STFU until you have something valid to say.

  22. We have come to believe that research studies concentrating on personal behavior and responsibility as causes of the obesity epidemic do little but offer cover to an industry seeking to downplay its own responsibility.

    So, does this mean they are going to use their editorial discretion to ensure that no such studies get published? Sounds like it.

    But of course, this is science, and is completely objective and totally uninfluenced by politics.

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