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U.S. spending billions to subsidize junk food, study says

September 23, 2011|By P.J. Huffstutter

Are farm subsidies making us fat?

Billions in taxpayer dollars are going to support high fructose corn syrup and three other common food additives used in junk food, according to a report released this week by the California Public Interest Research Group and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, both consumer advocacy groups.

The report, "Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food," makes the case that federal farm subsidies are helping feed the nation's obesity epidemic. The research shows that from 1995 to 2010, $16.9 billion in federal subsidies went to producers and others in the business of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils.

"If these agricultural subsidies went directly to consumers to allow them to purchase food, each of America's 144 million taxpayers would be given $7.36 to spend on junk food and 11 cents with which to buy apples each year — enough to buy 19 Twinkies but less than a quarter of one Red Delicious apple apiece," CALPIRG officials said in a statement.

The report comes as the White House has been rallying to battle childhood obesity, and Congress is poised to quash or curtail direct farm subsidy payments. Among the findings: Taxpayers in the San Francisco area spend $2,762,295 each year in junk food subsidies, but only $41,950 each year on apple subsidies. In Los Angeles, taxpayers spent $13,010,286 in junk food subsidies, and $201,291 on apple subsidies, according to the report.

p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com

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