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For a healthier economy, fewer Oreos, more granola

April 18, 2012|By Alexandra Le Tellier
  • Should government regulate sugar?
Should government regulate sugar? (STF / AFP / Getty Images )

Sugar is toxic, and possibly as addictive as cocaine. Meat is laced with antibiotics. “Pink slime” is unappetizing, as is its dubious and fishy counterpart, “pink slime of the sea.”  And the plastic packaging that food comes in is just as worrisome. But never mind the evidence that, as a country, we are eating ourselves to death. It’s a free country, and we have the right to be our own worst enemy.

Plenty of people have suggested regulating the junk we consume, specifically sodas. Robert H. Lustig, who appeared on an April 1 episode of “60 Minutes” -- "Is Sugar Toxic?" -- is among them. If alcohol, tobacco and poor diets are the leading causes of chronic diseases, he asks, why aren’t we also focusing on what we consume, and especially sugar?

Opining on this subject, the New York Times’ Mark Bittman points out: “Added sugar is not the only dangerous food. But unlike animal products, for example, which we also overconsume, it has no benefits.” He continues: “We need the government on our side. It must acknowledge the dangers caused by the most unhealthy aspects of our diet and figure out how to help us cope with them, because this is the biggest public health challenge facing the developed world.”

But try passing a law that forbids anyone under 17 from buying a can of Coke. We’d sooner see a pig sprout wings and escape the pen in which it’s cooped before slaughter.

Perhaps there is another approach to changing this country’s eating habits, one that embraces our freedoms while fattening up the economy. Hank Cardello, author of the book “Stuffed,” makes an argument for creating economic incentives for food producers in Tuesday’s Atlantic. “[W]e analyzed fifteen of the largest consumer packaged goods (CPG) corporations such as General Mills, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and Nestle and concluded that companies with above average sales of better-for-you (BFY) products enjoyed larger sales increases over a 5-year period, higher operating profits, better returns to shareholders and superior reputations,” he writes about the Hudson Institute’s study, Better-for-you Foods: It's Just Good Business. He concludes: “Companies are in business to make a profit and to maximize their shareholders' returns. I can see no better way for food and beverage companies to deliver on their missions than to speed up the proliferation of healthier, lower calorie offerings.”

Granola over Oreos? Sold!

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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter: @alexletellier

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