Alcohol and tobacco have both been the subject of a social-political war in the United States. We went from one extreme to another on the spectrum of alcohol regulation, even doing time with prohibition.
Except for my memories of elections over “dry” versus “wet” counties in the Midwest, most of that had worked itself out, reaching the current stalemate, before I came along.
The tobacco war is a little more recent. I never smoked cigarettes, which made me more of an observer than a participant in how it all came down.
Smoking cigarettes is a nasty, dirty, dangerous habit, but I’ve always been troubled by how easily we the majority of non-smokers were able to snuff out the smokers.
But ultimately it was the public that drew that line.
Still, whenever I see smokers huddling outside in a smoking ghetto, I feel a little bit guilty. Man, we threw them out so easily! Yes, first we came for the smokers!
And now comes New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to ration the sugar intake of soda drinkers by making it illegal to sell drinks larger than 16 ounces. Just as I do not smoke, I do not do sugary drinks. I’ve never understood “super sizes.”
Yet the idea that government is going to dictate how much of a legal product we can purchase is troubling. When you take the “lite fascism” road, where does it end? And, as I’ve said here before, it is more than a little bit icky whenever a government official or scientist/lobbyist starts talking about calorie rationing.
Meanwhile, however, the sugar war is going to be God’s gift to food writers everywhere. Unlike the alcohol and tobacco wars, which pretty much had pro- and anti- prohibitionist sides, the sugar wars are going to be more multidimensional affairs.
It comes as the sweet-stuff makers are warring among themselves over the names that can be used for syrup and sugar. Lots of smart folks have long made the case that food makers have fattened up our human herd by putting high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in just about everything.
Just as people seemed to become wise to that, along came the Corn Refiners Association with a bold plan to just rename HFSC “corn sugar” and make things right with the world.
The Sugar Association took their corn brethren to court for using “corn sugar” in advertising and last week FDA said syrup is not sugar. It took FDA about 20 months of pondering over a sugar bowl to conclude that sugar is a crystallized solid and corn syrup is a liquid.
This is not going to end the industry warring going on in the background. Neither the Corn Refiners Association, representing the likes of Archer Daniels Midland, nor the Sugar Association, representing cane and beet growers, are used to losing.
Whether Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to dictate soda sizes will bring syrup and sugar together to fight a common foe, I do not know. Previous schemes to stop people from swallowing so much sweetened soda revolved around proposals to tax it.
Soda taxes pretty much failed because people suspected government just wanted what it always wants–more money, and really did not care a wit about your fat kid.
Give the Big Apple credit for coming up with a new scheme with lots of parts that is centered only on cutting the intake of sugary soda. It’s going be expensive to enforce, but its motives are clear, and maybe even pure.
Could it work? Maybe. California’s five-year campaign to take sugary soda out of public schools is said to have cut the intake of the average Golden State student by 160 calories (there we go again) per day when compared to other states.
One thing is for certain: the war on sugar is going to come in many flavors and take on many tactics. My guess is that ultimately it will be the common sense of the American people that draws the line. We found that much out in the short-lived school bake sale ban in Massachusetts.
Finally, let me leave you with a troubling thought. From about 50,000 feet, all sides in this look about the same. The syrup and sugar businesses are trying to pour as much of their products into food as possible, as I said, to fatten up the herd.
Would-be health czars like Bloomberg want to use the police powers of government to take it away, because they say they care about the obesity epidemic and it’s worked with those nasty smokers.
Both camps seem to not need or care what the public thinks, or what might cause them to voluntarily change their behavior. For business and government, we are all just part of the herd.
Until we stampede.© Food Safety News