Thursday, February 02, 2012

Sugar and the food industry again 

Now more research points to the needs to act, as I previously noted when the Scripps research on sugar and fats in food pointed to addiction effects similar to cocaine.

This time it is the report by a team at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) on sugar levels in foods.

Sugar should be controlled like alcohol and tobacco to protect public health, according to a team of UCSF researchers, who maintain in a new report that sugar is fueling a global obesity pandemic, contributing to 35 million deaths annually worldwide from non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The cost of this in healthcare and economic productive terms is very significant and hence this calls for the same action as with tobacco and alcohol, making the producers reflect these costs in the retail price, along with restricting advertising, package sizes, availability and providing clear labelling as to the potential health effects.

The report itself notes "Many of the interventions that have reduced alcohol and tobacco consumption can be models for addressing the sugar problem, such as levying special sales taxes, controlling access, and tightening licensing requirements on vending machines and snack bars that sell high sugar products in schools and workplaces".

We can expect to see the food industry aggressively fighting this of course as they want to continue to profit and externalize their costs on to society.  Higher healthcare premiums, overwhelmed health services dealing with obese patients, special equipment needed, staff and patient injuries, and chronic long term support costs.

Notice that politicians will be particularly weak willed and ineffectual acting on this given the contributions they doubtless receive to election campaigns, manufacturers in their constituencies and lobbying of farming groups. All these factors are trifling compared to the net costs society is foisted with.

Expect to see the usual pronouncements saying that government is enacting measures and researching appropriate steps and then nothing to actually happen because no funding is appropriated in the budget.  Some states and cities though may act, as New York did in removing trans fats from use, or by raising local taxes.

Once again people can act themselves.  In the same way that you would not offer cigarettes or liquor to a child, now add to that list items like store made cup cakes, cereals like Captain Crunch and of course sodas all of which are designed to adjust behaviour at an early age.   When making recipes at home, use only a quarter of the sugar amount, so you can actually taste the food itself and not overwhelming sweetness.  As your Grandmother knows best, everything in moderation.

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