The front page of Sunday’s Sacramento Bee features the Center for Consumer Freedom and its “counteroffensive” against lawmakers and activists who push for excessive regulations on our favorite foods and drinks. Anti-soda crusader Harold Goldstein tells the Bee that Americans simply can’t be trusted with the complex task of feeding themselves. “The delusion is that we all make free choices,” he insists. While Goldstein’s rhetoric seems outrageous to most, inside the increasingly influential world of the food police, there’s nothing unusual about it at all. Indeed, it’s hard to find a card-carrying member of the Gastronomical Gestapo who doesn’t dismiss the concept of personal responsibility out of hand.
Obesity lawsuit instigator John “Sue the Bastards” Banzhaf lashes out: “All these platitudes about, ‘people should eat less,’ ‘responsibility,’ all this crap!”
Marion Nestle, queen of the food scolds, thinks that “balance, moderation and exercise” have no practical importance. “I don’t support that,” she says.
Discussing “The Politics of Food,” Skip Spitzer of the radical Pesticide Action Network maintains that “the idea of personal responsibility is a cultural construct.”
PETA medical “expert” Neal Barnard tells tales of food addiction, arguing that “it’s high time we stopped blaming ourselves for over-eating.”
Kelly “Big Brother” Brownell advocates “a more militant attitude about the toxic food environment, like we have about tobacco… [smoking] became so serious that society overlooked the intrusion on individual rights for the greater social good.” He also suggests that human beings have no more control over their food choices than animals in a cage.
Margo Wootan, one of the top killjoys at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), implores: “We have got to move beyond personal responsibility.” And when the World Health Organization added a single, understated sentence referencing the “exercise of individual responsibility” to its anti-obesity strategy, CSPI raged: “Obesity is not merely a matter of individual responsibility. Such suggestions are naive and simplistic.”
If, as the food cops insist, the exercise of individual choice has limited bearing on what we put in our mouths, who does make these decisions? Aliens from the recently-discovered 10th planet? Sub-atomic microbots who live in fluoridated water? Perhaps it’s the ghost of Milton Hershey.
Actually, most nutrition zealots believe that responsibility for food choices should rest with individuals — as long as those individuals are named Kelly Brownell and Michael Jacobson. Here’s how noted food critic Robert Shoffner describes their philosophy: “People are children and have to be protected by Big Brother or Big Nanny from the awful free-market predators … That’s what drives these people — a desire for control of other people’s lives.” If they prevail, the Center for Consumer Freedom contends in the Bee, governments are likely to:
…enact laws that would allow a waiter to decide if a patron could have dessert, much like a bartender can decide whether to pour a customer another drink. Just as cigar bars were banned in California … ice cream parlors could get the ax. The next thing you know, the center says, there will be scales in restaurants, and customers will be served or denied certain foods based on weight.