Food Freedom

New Food Policy Report Calls for a Global War on Meat and Sugar

Global food police want to treat meat and sugar products like tobacco.

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Xinhua News Agency/Newscom

A Lancet Commission Report released this week calls for a global campaign to combat obesity, malnutrition, and climate change. The report, The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change, claims these problems share a common cause and, hence, may be fixed with a common solution.

The concept of a "syndemic"—basically, two or more related pandemics—is pretty novel. So is tying climate change to both the overconsumption and underconsumption of calories. But the solution the authors propose will sound frustratingly familiar. In short, their big fix is to treat food companies like tobacco companies and tax meats and sugary food and drink.

Some members of the media love the report. A Vox piece, which reads like a combination press release/op-ed, eats up the report, quotes several supporters, including Marion Nestle, and ignores any and all critics. It even closes with a call to embrace the report's assault on large food producers: "It's about time that changed."

Some things in the report jump right out. For example, the article doesn't waste any time making some rather astonishing claims. For example, the third sentence argues that climate change is a pandemic. (The World Health Organization defines a pandemic as "the worldwide spread of a new disease.") A previous Lancet publication argued that physical inactivity—e.g., sitting on your couch habitually—is also a pandemic.

Also noteworthy is the fact there are nearly as many glowing references to food taxes in the report (42) as there are authors of the report (43).

The report authors pin many of the causes of their so-called syndemic on two things: the production and consumption of meat and consumption of "ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks."

The report authors, for example, hail Mexico's national soda tax, Chile's backwards food policies, and "the progress seen in New York City during Michael Bloomberg's years as mayor," which, recall, were notable chiefly for the mayor's systemic attack on food freedom.

The report warns about "the urgent need for a fundamental change in today's governance systems." In other words, capitalism is bad. "Arguably, the most important challenge is considering and redefining the fundamental goals of these systems." That means targeting "the structures, practices, and beliefs that underpin capitalism in its present form[.]"

Going forward, this means urging businesses to give "social and environmental aspects of corporate performance… greater prominence, even equal to financial performance" and governments to tax unhealthy foods. It also means "taxes on unhealthy foods, front-of-pack [warning] labelling, targets on the content of nutrients of concern in processed foods, restriction of unhealthy food marketing to children, and healthy school food policies."

The report stops short (as far as I can tell) of calling explicitly for a meat tax, though the authors do call for "local solutions that engage people [to] reduce[] meat consumption," "promot[ing] a plant-based diet" and an end to farm subsidies—the latter is something I've long supported—so that consumers "pay[] the true costs of… meat." Outside of the report itself, though, its sponsors clearly believe it calls for "reducing red meat consumption through taxes."

Ultimately, the report concludes with a call for a "global treaty for food systems based on the [global tobacco control] model."

That's all bad. But the report itself isn't all bad.

"The fossil fuel and food industries that are responsible for driving The Global Syndemic receive more than $5 trillion in annual subsidies from governments," it notes. "The ongoing pattern of transfers of large amounts of public money to corporations in the form of subsidies and tax breaks… needs to change."

But such moments of clarity are rare. Which brings to mind the general disconnect between those who cherish liberty and the public health community.

"Most people start with the naive assumption that when matters of public health are on the table, claims for individual liberty normally must give way," Richard Epstein wrote in a seminal 2004 article on public health and food policymaking. "The usual thinking about this subject is that preserving the public health is an essential state function that cries out for the use of coercive powers."

In a world filled with more and more food choices, my only hope is that those choices—and the people who make them—grow and thrive. Given a choice between governments forcing people to alter their diets in order to slightly prolong miserable lives or government staying out of the way and people living slightly shorter but happier lives, I'll take the latter every time.

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67 responses to “New Food Policy Report Calls for a Global War on Meat and Sugar

  1. OMG! This quote was a bright spot of the report???

    “The fossil fuel and food industries that are responsible for driving The Global Syndemic receive more than $5 trillion in annual subsidies from governments,” it notes. “The ongoing pattern of transfers of large amounts of public money to corporations in the form of subsidies and tax breaks… needs to change.”

    In other words, ANY attempt to let a corporation keep ITS OWN MONEY is the same as direct payments by the government! How NON-libertarian is THAT messed up thinking! Not to mention that the tax breaks are offered universally, not specifically to fossil fuel and food.

    Let’s all remember that it was LANCET that got the whole anti-vax hysteria started, giving credibility to a total hoax, and respond according (scornful laughter sounds about right).

    1. Oh, it’s stupider than that. The “$5 trillion” in subsidies includes the cost of the military suppressing pirates who otherwise would rob the international trade in food and oil.

      That’s right, preventing kidnapping, theft, and murder is a subsidy that should be stopped.

      1. “Oh, it’s stupider than that. The “$5 trillion” in subsidies includes the cost of the military suppressing pirates who otherwise would rob the international trade in food and oil.”

        I’m reminded that every lefty dofus claiming the oil industry is ‘subsidized’ finally ends up with the military and military aid in the near east.
        Yep, military assistance to THE JOOZE makes sure their entire output ends up in US hands!

        1. Actually military assistance in the middle east actually subsidizes competitors to U S oil companies. US oil companies do refine and sell oil from the middle east, but I don’t think there is much doubt they make more from their own exploration, drilling, and production where oil isn’t nationalized and owned by the government.

      2. It is hard to see how protecting trade from piracy is a subsidy. It is specifically one of the reasons why governments are created.

        1. It’s only a subsidy until the UN does it, and then it is a human cause, as they leap in when shit has long ago hit the fan.

    2. >”The ongoing pattern of transfers of large amounts of public money to corporations in the form of subsidies and tax breaks… needs to change.”

      Well, once you accept the concept that failing to buy something is the same as stealing it by way of denying revenue to its creator that kind of logic follows pretty easily. Reduced taxes are equivalent to stealing money from the gov– I mean the public!

    3. Anyone who thinks that oil companies get 7% of planetary GDP in annual tax breaks and subsidies is insane. Everyone on Earth only made 84 trillion last year. The Oil industry in total made a substantial amount of that, yes. However, they also paid a substantial number of excise and income taxes, fees,

      I cannot find the world data, but total oil revenues for American Oil companies was 135 Billion in 2017. Doing a rough ratio from American to world GDP, this means that oil companies made around a trillion dollars in total revenue, and a lot of those companies are already owned by governments.

      1. Its actually reversed, Exxon mobile makes about .09 per gallon in profit per gallon, the feds tax it at
        18 cents a gallon, so they are doubling up what Exxon is getting, and California puts another .55 on top of that.

        Looks to me like the subsidies are flowing from the oil companies to the government.

  2. The fight against the “epidemic” of obesity among the poor always makes me snicker.

    Capitalism, technology, and trade have made it so that obesity among the world’s poor is a problem now? Surely, we’ve crossed into some new era. Poor people of the world rejoice! Your eons of insufficient calorie intake appear to be ending.

    What’s next? I know! Let’s give them all smart phones to combat the “epidemic” of boredom.

    1. Poor people are disproportionately bored, and that’s just not fair!

    2. I heard somewhere that globally these days there are more people dying of obesity-related issues than starvation and malnutrition. Also, apparently more people are dying from suicide than murder, so that’s a start, I guess.

      1. It’s calorie inequality that is causing all these problems! We need calorie taxes!

    3. Giving them smartphones won’t end their boredom, it will just give it more scope.

    4. We need to bring back the food pyramid, I’m sure 5 servings a day of pasta and legumes will fix everything.

  3. So, no orange chicken, then?

    1. #orangechickenbad

  4. Global food police want to treat meat and sugar products like tobacco

    Good heavens, man! That’s not how you smoke a ham!

    1. I chuckled

    2. It is however, how Tony smokes meat.

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  6. So Lancet, like Vox, can safely be ignored for any actual, you know, “facts”.

    1. A fact sneaks into Lancet every now and then. Even a blind hog finds an acorn.

  7. The Lancet treating everything it does not like as a disease is a fine example of politicized scope creep. Cannot just report on your expertise, but treat political issue as if they are nails to your hammer. The Lancet beclowns itself for whatever reason.

    1. Climate change is as old as the earth. Regardless of how much of an effect human activity has had lately, it will continue to change?just as it did before humans even existed. And now, according to the Lancet, it’s a “disease” to try to cure?

      What about the disease of tectonic plate shift causing all those earthquakes? Are you just gonna ignore that, Lancet?

      And what about cosmic radiation? Gamma ray bursts from distant star systems raining down on us? Other potential deadly particle streams penetrating everything? Neutrinos? Tachyon particles? This stuff could all cause cancer! So what if it comes from space? You need to prescribe a treatment, Lancet! Some sort of tax should do the trick!

      1. Mission creep?

  8. I feel sorry for kids today because we’ve run out of real problems to solve. Instead they are self-imposed crises like climate change, trash in the oceans, and obesity. And even if they solve them we will just create new gratuitous global wars for ourselves. What’s the point?

    1. Old one you may know.

      The scientists of the world agree. An enormous comet is heading for earth which will cover the planet in a giant tidal wave.

      The governments of the world react. The president calls for peace and calm as we await the catastrophe as a nation.

      The pope rallies the faith community to a day of prayer to the almighty.

      The chief imam of Mecca declares a day of fasting and supplication to Allah for mercy in this difficult time.

      The government of Israel brings the chief rabbi. He stands before the microphones and says “OK we have three days to learn how to live underwater”

      So goes the joke.

    2. “…What’s the point?”

      Sad as it seems, the only ‘point’ now appears to be ‘feeling good about yourself for solving civilization’s (made up) problems!’
      How noble!

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  10. I like meat, bacon, pulled pork sandwiches, sugar in my Mexican Coke. Stay out of my cupboard and my refrigerator and my bedroom and my wallet! Wtf is wrong with the world that everything must be taxed, regulated and pronounced good or evil.
    Asking for and fighting for subsidies from idiot governments only increases the government’s desire to CONTROL. Our Constitution has enumerated powers that do include subsidies to the “greater good”. Support through legislation that keeps big hands out of my wallet is highly desirable.. . . For me, ! anyway

  11. So people are so excited to not be starving around the World that they eat too much or get a bit fat.

    Starving is WAY WORSE than being a bit fat.

    Once again, the Nanny-Staters don’t use information to convince people they use government force to enforce their will on everyone.

    1. Well, one reason that it is that way is that conservatives like you close your ears to any fact that doesn’t give you a sense of warm nostalgia for the ‘way it alway was.’

      Also in many cases we’re not talking about ‘a bit fat’ we’re talking dangerously obese. We’re talking people yelling ‘run, forest, run’ because their most significant connection to excercise is a Tom Hanks movie from 1994. That’s the same weaselly crap that statists pull when they say ‘common sense gun control’ and explain that people will only ‘pay a bit more in taxes’.

      You’ll give Robby shit about fruit sushi at his cocktail parties (rightly so) but the only difference is that your social parties are held in deer blinds. Man is the partisan hackery old.

      1. If we get a government “solution” the fat epidemic will never end.

        It would not be in the interest of government.

        Incentives matter.

  12. From the same issue of the Lancet ” New Study, Fertility Is Hereditary: If your parents did not have any children chances are you won’t either” /s

    Hopefully few people will pay any attention to the Lancet commissions. The journal has long been criticized for editorial bias and over reliance on epidiomiologic studies and meta analysis. A commission paper only further amplifies bias and makes future projections which cannot be proven.

    There are some things there worth reading. This is not one of them.

  13. Same idiots that printed the scam article on vaccinations, no?

  14. Is the any problem tha MOAR TAXEZ won’t solve?

    1. I had a news clip on my email this morning regarding a Dutch historian lecturing the money people at Davos, telling them the only ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’ of wealth inequality was more and larger taxes!
      Didn’t see a word explaining why well-off people are harmed by others who have made a ton more money; what ‘problem’?

      1. I saw that same news clip. The moron wants a91% tax again neglecting the fact that everything we touched back then was a deduction and no matter what tax rates are the FEDs still collect essentially the same 17-18% of GDP in revenue. So the answer is keep rolling over the debt and KNOW tha inflation will kick in and drop the value of that debt. Hmmm!

        1. Well see they want 91% WITHOUT any deductions of course! You must learn from the “mistakes” of the past, obviously. We finally have the right Top Men to figure these things out now!

  15. But the report itself isn’t all bad.

    Wrong.

  16. “Given a choice between governments forcing people to alter their diets in order to slightly prolong miserable lives or government staying out of the way and people living slightly shorter but happier lives, I’ll take the latter every time.”

    Of course, there are other options than those two. The lancet could fold and save many nervous breakdown a year, a net good.
    The government could let go and allow individuals to be individuals.
    (yes, I do believe in unicorns, and helped save Tinkerbell)

    People could take responsibility for their own actions and be fat or fit as they choose, and according to Darwin, the problem will resolve itself in an evolution or two.

    1. “The government could let go and allow individuals to be individuals.”

      No government wants to lead a nation of blimps.

    2. “People could take responsibility for their own actions and be fat or fit as they choose, and according to Darwin, the problem will resolve itself in an evolution or two.”

      That’s not the way it works. Sure, people can take responsibility for their own actions but they can’t pass it on to their children.

  17. You’ll get my meat from my cold dead hands.

    1. Hell of a way to go.

      “He died as he had lived, with his meat in his hands.”

  18. “and tax meats and sugary food and drink.”

    I remember reading about ‘evolutionary traps.’ Humans have evolved after millions of years to gorge themselves on sugar and oil whenever they get the opportunity. The ease with which we can gorge ourselves on these things has opened the trap, and negated the benefits that these foods offer.

    1. We need a War On Evolution.

      1. Why can’t we just tax it out of existence?

  19. Demonstrating once again my adage that 90% of the diet related ‘problems’ of the world could be solved by taking the food police out and shooting them, just as 90% of the environmental ‘crises’ could be solved by shooting the environmentalists.

    1. My preferred plan for the eco-freaks is to pretend to agree with CO2 reduction, then outlaw exhaling without a permit. Of course, I will control who gets the permits, and the problem will not be mentioned again after the first 10 minutes.

      1. Somewhere Stalin’s ghost is smiling.

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  22. Black Markets are a counter to government over reach.

    Natural Law.

  23. As always, it is not a war on meat and sugar, it is a war on individual choice.

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  25. So, what, is the war on fat, cholesterol and salt over? Or are we fighting food on multiple fronts now? We’ll only win when everyone is vegan, I guess.

    1. No. Vegans aren’t safe… Sugar is fine for vegans, as is salt… So not even all vegans will be acceptable in the new People’s Utopia!

  26. Start working at home with Google. It’s the most-financially rewarding I’ve ever done. On tuesday I got a gorgeous BMW after having earned $8699 this last month. I actually started five months/ago and practically straight away was bringin in at least $96, per-hour. visit this site right here….. http://www.mesalary.com

  27. Start working at home with Google. It’s the most-financially rewarding I’ve ever done. On tuesday I got a gorgeous BMW after having earned $8699 this last month. I actually started five months/ago and practically straight away was bringin in at least $96, per-hour. visit this site right here….. http://www.mesalary.com

  28. Meat has little to do with obesity, but I guess that is beside the point.

    1. Actually, meat is a big part of the solution. Plant based diets are notoriously low in protein, which is an essential nutrient, something that carbs are not.

  29. “The whole point of this country is if you wanna eat garbage, balloon up to six hundred pounds and die of a heart attack at forty three, YOU CAN! You are free to do so. To me that’s beautiful.”

    –Ron Swanson

    1. “I’m the enemy because I like to think. I like to read. I’m into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I’m the kind of guy that could sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecue ribs or the side order of gravy fries? I want high cholesterol. I would eat bacon and butter and buckets of cheese. Okay? I want to smoke Cuban cigars the size of Cincinnati in the nonsmoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-O all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I might suddenly feel the need to. Okay, pal?”

      Dennis Leary
      Demolition Man.

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  31. A “plant based diet”…. Like mashed potatoes and french fries and corn chips fried in corn oil?

    Sure… THAT will end obesity…

    A huge part of the obesity epidemic was caused by the federal government’s low fat school lunch policy. Whatever the government says to do for your health — do the opposite.

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