Brits Bring Back Bogus Attack on Food

130415_CCF_ChickenWings_picIn a very long piece in Britain’s The Guardian, a writer steps into the same pit that so many other commentators (many of whom should know better) have during the decade-long fight against fat. Citing and echoing the call of Kelly “Big Brother” Brownell, author Jacques Peretti claims that only by echoing the tactics of anti-smoking can we slim down. (Weirdly, Peretti seems to cite the development of healthier food items as part of the problem, which both makes no sense and is a matter for another day.)

We’ll leave aside that in the absence of draconian measures such as food taxes, portion size bans, and prohibitions on food items themselves, preschool obesity seems to be declining. We’re also eating roughly six teaspoons less sugar than we did ten years ago according to Emory University research, and children are consuming between 70 and 150 fewer calories than they did last decade. If our children aren’t getting skinnier faster, it might be because they aren’t exercising enough, as the Centers for Disease Control’s former obesity tsar suggested recently on PBS.

By placing hope in a misguided model, activists hope to cram down the harsh policies that the public and the courts have stoutly rejected. Even worse, that model might not even make us any healthier. The evidence on soda taxes suggests that their contributions to calorie reductions are, at best, trivial. And other food-scold policies like menu calorie labeling and “food desert” subsidies don’t seem likely to yield results.

Indeed, rather than joining the cabal demanding that Americans’ choices be controlled, readers would be better served by reflecting on just how different eating is as compared to things like smoking. Earlier this year, a writer poured well-deserved cold water on the prairie fire of anti-food orthodoxy, noting that the activists’ proposed model for punishing food choices and food companies would not work and was based on false premises.

Unfortunately, documentary producers, television networks (Peretti is making a segment bashing food companies for the BBC), and book publishers can’t (or don’t want to) sell the hard truth that only by eating fewer calories and exercising more — in other words, personal responsibility — can people lose weight. Until people stop buying the nanny-state fix, we’ll be here reminding the world’s chattering classes that since that fix sounds too good to be true, it undoubtedly is.

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