The First Lady’s war on food

Don’t you just hate judgmental people? Progressives certainly do.

When conservatives have expressed moral discontent over issues like drug use, gay marriage and illegal immigration, progressives howl “discrimination!” Judgments, they insist, are terrible things that hurt feelings.

Oh, except for you, fatty! Now, put down the potato chips and get back on that treadmill!

The full-on assault, not just on people designated “overweight,” but on the food industry itself has been breathtaking in its aggression and relentlessness. Having assumed control of our health care, the federal government has now taken it upon itself to police the diets of its citizens. For a while, the reigning champion of nutritional meddling was ex-Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, who successfully banned trans-fats in restaurants and almost managed to regulate 32-ounce sodas out of existence.

Since Bloomberg’s departure, however, the primary food policer-in-chief has been First Lady Michelle Obama, who will apparently not rest until she single-handedly rids the country of all fat kids. With her catchy, two-word campaigns like “Let’s Move!” and “Drink Up!”, the First Lady has dispensed ill-informed, unscientific advice to the nation’s youngsters all in the nebulous name of “health.”

Her latest initiative finds her tackling food labels, using the FDA to enforce stricter standards on what companies can (and indeed must) print on their packaging. The new standards would require companies to print calorie counts in larger fonts, and to increase the “serving size” amounts to reportedly be more realistic. Additionally, companies would be required to include information on how much added sugar foods contain, as opposed to natural sugars found in things like fruit or honey.

All this is being done under the auspices of making Americans healthier, but does anyone actually expect that changes in font size will actually make a difference in people’s behavior? Does Michelle Obama seriously believe that the only reason people eat a bag of chips in one sitting is because of the portion sizes printed on the nutrition facts label?

Of course not. No one thinks that.

Here is what the First Lady said about her motivation for the new labeling guidelines: “You as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your local grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it’s good for your family.”

This is an incredibly vague statement. What’s “good for your family” is going to vary wildly by individual. People have different needs, different diets and different metabolisms. Individuals are better equipped to determine what is good for them than any government agency.

100812_obama_burger_ap_392_regularFood labeling requirements are not meant to help people “make informed choices.” People can already make informed choices if they want to. Even in the unlikely case people are really making their eating decisions based on the formatting of numbers found on the side of a package, it’s not like this information is difficult to obtain. It is trivial to adjust calorie counts to the portion size you actually consume, and if the font is too small, reading glasses can be obtained for a modest price at all local drug stores.

Clearly, this initiative is not really about health. It’s not even about information. Dr. David Kessler, ex-Commissioner of the FDA, flat out admits this, inadvertently exposing the agency’s real agenda.

“The food label is not just about giving consumers information but about creating incentives for the industry to create healthier products. No company wants their product to look bad on the food label,” he said.

So the goal is not actually to improve consumer information, but to bully the food industry into producing the kind of products government thinks it ought to, as opposed to the kind people actually want to buy. This is the insidious “nudge” approach to policy that has now come to dominate the once noble profession of economics.

All of this food labeling nonsense is nothing more than a cunning ruse.
The real purpose of these requirements is to impose costs on the food industry, to punish them, to make their business more difficult. This is government exerting political pressure on selected industries, so that it can bully them into behaving a certain way. Obesity is just a red herring for bringing companies in line with administration priorities.

This initiative is expected to run the food industry $2 billion dollars in compliance costs, hardy a trivial imposition. It’s the same kind of gradual extortion we have seen applied to the tobacco industry and any other group liberals deem harmful to society.
When outright prohibition is not tolerated, costly regulations can have much the same effect, albeit more subtly and over a longer time frame. All the better for a political class that wants to keep the population at large docile and uninterested.

Maybe they won’t even notice.


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