Our Senior Research Analyst J. Justin Wilson at the Centre for Consumer Freedom took our message worldwide this week. He was a guest on the BBC’s Newsnight, facing off against panelist Aseem Malhotra, who argued that studies show sugar is toxic and “drives appetite,” and that foods high in salt and sugar have addictive qualities.
And Wilson ceded the point—because our “addiction” to food is better known as hunger, and it’s awfully hard to quit food without having some serious consequences, like death. But he didn’t stop there in exposing the absurd notion of “food addiction.”
[I]f salt and sugar are these addictive substances, that would make my grandmother the Pablo Escobar of food addiction with the cookies that she used to make.
When the segment shifted to blame “not objective” information on food labels, Wilson noted that with rare exceptions, most foods on the wrong side of the “food police” do not make any health claims, because most people are responsible and can “tell the difference between a banana and a banana split.” People buy banana splits because they’re tasty, not for the nutrients.
Malhotra argued in favor of a “traffic light” labeling system of food, despite the fact that all of the nutritional information is already available on all food sold in the U.S. and U.K.
Taken together, we can see how the two fronts on the attack on consumer choice are playing out.
Food and product labeling in the U.S. keeps expanding but is doing nothing to stop obesity but plenty for increasing trial lawyers’ bank accounts. What those lawsuits have taught us is that there are few labels that will ever meet everyone’s standards, leading to endless litigation.
And on the “addiction” front, some schools here are moving to ban “Hot Cheetos” for their supposedly addictive qualities. If that’s so, how would you like your snack foods to be regulated? Perhaps a tax? A size ban? What about requiring IDs? We could probably maintain state-run “ABC” stores—“Alcoholic Beverages & Candy” shops, that is.
Enjoying the taste of your food doesn’t make you an addict—it makes you a human being. And it doesn’t matter if consumers call their potato snacks of choice “chips” or “crisps.”