Sometimes the food police resemble the Keystone Kops, but their latest bit of tomfoolery would put even the Kops’ antics to shame. At the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity meeting in Wichita two weeks ago, these courageous regulators struck a blow for public health by getting the host hotel to remove a soda vending machine from the conference. Two explanations can be given for this bold move — both of them ridiculous.
Perhaps the vending machine was junked for symbolic reasons, in a grand gesture by which attendees could signify their commitment to abstinence from all things that might contain sugar (any diet sodas and bottled water in that vending machine were also removed). But the causes of obesity (when the problem isn’t being overstated) are a little more complex. Consider, for instance, that a team of six Harvard researchers studying 14,000 schoolchildren found no connection between childhood obesity and soda consumption.

If the machine wasn’t junked as a symbol, only one explanation remains: a conference full of food police, overflowing with professional and educational credentials and heads stuffed with pseudoscience about the horrors of soda, could not police itself. The temptation to drink soda would be too strong for even the grimmest Puritans. So of course, no one else can be expected to make responsible food choices for themselves and their families.

That vending machine never stood a chance.