Obesity Crisis or Bulging Government?

Fried FoodRight after now-former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg first proposed his ban on large sodas, researchers from the RAND Corporation published a paper in the Centers for Disease Control-published policy journal Preventing Chronic Disease. While their proposals were largely overshadowed by Bloomberg’s radical foray into soda sizes (which has been blocked by an appellate court), we noted our concern that the authors’ thesis that food should be regulated like alcohol was gaining credence and egghead support in the activist community.

One of the co-authors, Deborah Cohen, has expanded the harebrained notion into a book-length manifesto, A Big Fat Crisis. A New York Post reviewer outlines her vision for a less-free food culture:

The government would regulate cronut shops like it does liquor stores and the surgeon general would plaster candy bars with graphic health warnings. […]

Since humans are “biologically designed to overeat,” she writes, the government must “apply to unhealthy foods the kind of regulations that have been so successful in limiting alcohol consumption.”

Cohen’s litany of demands for regulation is based on the activist theory that foods are “addictive” like cocaine, nicotine, or other drugs. But this is far from the scientific consensus: University of Leeds researcher John Blundell has noted that characterizing overeating as food addiction “is an over-simplification of a very complex set of behaviors” and “implies that normal human social behavior is pathological.”

Anyway, the public hasn’t been receptive to Cohen’s super-Bloombergism thus far. Amazon.com’s live rankings of book sales put A Big Fat Crisis well down its “Best Sellers” list—when this post was published, the book was at #32,600. This doesn’t surprise us: Recent Pew Research polling found that Americans oppose invasive food choice regulation by wide margins. Hopefully policymakers will remain as un-receptive to invasive, potentially counterproductive regulation as the public has been.

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