Pick your poison: obesity or nanny state?

03/13/2013 05:11:00 AM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstIs it the nanny state run amok or enlightened management of public health?

Do you think states/cities should impose limits on the container size of sugared beverages like pop?

I posed that question to the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group this week, and I’m anxious to hear the views of readers of The Packer as well.

One member said:

Container size means nothing when it comes to unlimited refills.. or refill at a discounted cost. This is the most ridiculous bunch of bureaucratic nonsense... IMO. Get people moving. Motivate everyone, get everyone out and about doing things that are productive for the community. Implementing citywide incentives to "get out and about" would be much more productive in the national weight gain/watch plan Obama is on. Just a thought. GRRR Politicians.

I like the reader’s focus on incentives, and it appears the courts also may not be keen on putting the kibosh on Super Big Gulps.

The New York Supreme Court ruled against the New York City’s soda restrictions in this decision. NYC Mayor Bloomberg, of course, disagreed with the court’s view that the law was capricious and overreaching and indicated an appeal was likely. Check out this Huff Post article for some of the science supporting the soda limits.

Even among those who think the soda ban is over the top, I'll bet most would accept the fact that government should play some role at all in the administration of public health.
For example, do we want beer sold out of vending machines?

In schools, few would balk at the fact that USDA/school districts have a hand in what is sold at  vending machines.

Elevating one choice and taking away another can help engineer outcomes, after all. And shouldn’t governments go full tilt to reduce the long term public health costs caused by obesity.

For example, this study reveals that mandating fruits and vegetables in schools can be an effective tool to increase fruit and vegetable consumption in adolescents.

True, I wouldn’t like to live under the heavy hand of soda restrictions. Give me my large $1 Coke from McDonalds, please. But there should be no hesitation in elevating one option  (fruits and vegetables) and reducing the pull of other choices (sugary drinks) when it comes to delivering publically-funded food assistance.



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Chad    
New Jersey  |  March, 18, 2013 at 09:45 AM

This is a tough question... IMO, we can't keep "Nerf-ing" the world, we have to let people make their own decisions. I understand that one side of the argument is that the tax payers will be paying more for the health care of these people that are affected by the "leave it alone" mentality, but how far are we willing to go? Restaurants give their customers options to choose from, if they continually chose the non-healthy option there is no helping them. We need to provide these people with knowledge of why their choice is unhealthy and what they need to do to make the correct choices and alter their life. Until these people are taught what food choices are better and how they can become more active to improve their lives, it's a losing battle.

Doug    
Raleigh, NC  |  March, 19, 2013 at 10:23 AM

I am astounded that people do not show up in angry mobs at City Hall in New York when the mayor circumscribes their lifestyle choices. Why has liberty become so negotiable that people will cede responsibility for their weight, BMI and menu choices to a group or bureaucrats, without so much as a shaken fist? Have people decided that liberty presents too much risk, and that they would prefer to have everything done for them, everything guaranteed? Liberty - not comfort, subsistence or government handouts - is what our forefathers fought and died for. Can liberty be so cheap that people yawn as it disappears over the horizon? I hope we have taught our own children that they will be swimming upstream in an ever-increasing current given what we are seeing our government do to the people's will.

R Henry    
CA  |  March, 19, 2013 at 01:21 PM

"Obesity vs Nanny State" This is a false choice. The real question is "Do I control my what I put in my mouth, or does The Government"? --Don't tread on me! --How any food industry leader can support Government power in determining "acceptable" foods is beyond me. Who knows when Big Brother might declare your food product "unaccpetable" for some political reason. To invite government control at one point is to invite government control at all points.

Richard Ross    
Lincoln, NE  |  March, 19, 2013 at 07:38 PM

I shouldn't say this out loud. But as a former Chairman of a Board of Health, a member of the group wanted to restrict guns based on the fact that it was a health concern. 1. The board of health is not elected and not representative of the population at large. 2. The only role for government in public health is in tracking births, deaths and contagious diseases.

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