, Salem, MA

August 13, 2013

Letter: Regulate, don't ban, bad 'food'

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

The Salem News is right that the New York City soda ban is unconstitutional and we should be leery of government control.

There’s no need to cite the ever-increasing statistics on obesity, along with its secondary and tertiary effects on the overall society.

It’s not an individual problem; it increasingly is a societal problem. Numerous sources show how companies purposely make food more addictive while simultaneously targeting children (just like the cigarette companies did). Weight control for many people is extremely hard to manage, even when not being blasted by thousands of ads per day telling us to eat more.

The Salem News shakes its fist at the idea of government control but doesn’t seem to recognize that businesses profiting from the obesity epidemic that they in part created should be equally condemned. We let them off in the name of free enterprise (of corporations and individuals). But unlike cigarettes, alcohol or drugs, people can’t quit food. Instead, people who battle with obesity must battle at every meal of every day of their lives. That battle is the single person, not just against the food in front of them, but all the additives that play upon their neural circuitry and the full-blown advertising force (along with purposeful misinformation — someone explain to me what “natural” actually means) that the companies employ and the utter abundance of food surrounding the person (the ratio of food establishments to crack houses is probably somewhere in the vicinity of 2,000:1). So, who is there to really help the individual in this capacity?

How about a compromise? What if we took the same approach to very unhealthy foods as we do with smoking and alcohol use for youth? No one can honestly claim there is legitimate nutritional value to 64 ounces of liquid sugar for the average person. And while one-time consumption poses no direct harm, repeated usage does serious harm — just like cigarettes and alcohol. Singular consumption of these three does not create a health risk, but repeated consumption does. So, what about regulating substantially unhealthy food from people under 18? What about guiding our youth and providing a healthy and nurturing culture for them to grow up in? Given all the scientific evidence about diet, health and nutrition, is that really such a radical idea?

Lance Eaton