The Food Dictators
EDITORIAL

The Food Dictators

he “War on Obesity” is gaining momentum as it feeds on campaigns such as New York City’s recent proposal for a citywide ban on the use of trans-fats. But is this action a lifesaver, or is it the beginning of an Orwellian nightmare? This was the question posed by much of the news media, whether TV, radio, or print. Not surprisingly, there was a great deal of support for the ban and the good that it could do to help save lives. The press was only faintly concerned about the “Big Brother” implications. Apparently we can’t expect the mainstream press to defend a free society, nor to advocate the preservation of a necessary foundation stone: the sanctity of free choice.

Have we forgotten that once upon a time trans-fats had the complete support of government, from federal to local? This occurred when margarine (read trans-fats) was endorsed as a healthier alternative to butter. Even though there was some evidence back then that trans-fats were bad—and now there is massive evidence to that effect—the biggest difference between then and now is the political difference. Then, the government merely suggested that we select our food wisely; now, it commands that we surrender to its “wisdom.”

What about the obesity problem? Surely the government knows that, ultimately, the cause is too many calories in and too few calories out. So is it within the purview of government to limit the amount of food that individuals can eat or to require exercise, much as state laws mandate physical education in the school systems? Increasingly, while many are asleep and oblivious to the dangers of these new controls, our government is ceding to itself the “right” to determine what we can eat and, derivatively, to amass more “rights” to “help” us even more.

The Commissar at the Door

Did you know that the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been working to reclassify salt as unsafe, thereby setting the stage for significant restrictions or a ban? “There is no way the FDA can look at the science and say with a straight face that salt is ‘generally recognized as safe,’” CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a recent press release.1 Going farther down this path, we have sugar, fats, and a number of other foods that are easy marks for regulation. And there’s no reason to suppose it will end there.

In the not too distant future, we may wake up to find the Food Commissar kicking down the door to our kitchen in the name of public health and the war on obesity. Be aware that this may very well be our future unless we do something about it now.

Department of Food Security

It’s no secret that a growing number of politicians, always looking for a way to curry favor with their constituents, have been beating the bushes for food “crises” as a source of new votes. In the recent ballyhoo about the spinach contamination with E. coli—which affected an infinitesimally small portion of the population—we had Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) demanding a change in the way the federal government protects the nation from bad food.2 Declaring the contamination a deadly warning and a wakeup call, Durbin is calling for a new superagency. Lynda DeLaforgue of Citizen Action Illinois envisions it to be similar to the Department of Homeland Security. We might think of it as the Department of Food Security. Sieg Heil!

Saving Us from Ourselves

As users of dietary supplements, we know all too well that government is not fond of any scientific opinion over which it can’t have the final say. We have long been confronted with the notion that health claims—even mild ones, such as that omega-3 fatty acids can help your heart—cannot be made for supplements unless there is “significant scientific agreement,” (according to the FDA’s statement). This remains true despite several United States District Court decisions (Pearson v. Shalala, et al.) that purportedly overturned this criterion.

At the root of the problem is the belief that government should save us from ourselves by acting on our behalf, independently of our agreement that such actions are necessary and independently of the rights we possess.

It is time for us to stand up and say, “We don’t want your help—we want our rights. Get off our backs.” One thing is sure: if this trend goes on, there will be more than mere food dictators in our lives.

References

  1. Anon. ‘Forgotten killer’ salt kills 150,000 a year, says CSPI report. Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, DC, Feb 24, 2005.
  2. Williams J. Spinach scare was a wakeup call, says senator. CBS News, Chicago, Sep 22, 2006.

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