Yesterday, the influential My Money Blog ranked 67 different foods in increasing order from cheapest to most expensive based on how much a person would have to eat to consume 200 calories. According to his smorgasbord spectrum, healthy foods like peppers and melons cost almost 40 times as much per calorie as junk foods like pastries and chips. Consequently, his list seems to support food activists’ favorite obesity syllogism:
First Point: Consumers buy more cheap goods (as compared to expensive goods)Second Point: Fatty foods have gotten cheaper over timeConclusion: Consumers now buy more fatty foods (as compared to past consumption)
Like Johnnie Cochran, food radicals need the public to focus on one oversimplified argument to gain support for outrageous policies like junk food taxes and fast food zoning. But take a longer look at the methodology used and the argument falls apart.While the blog highlights donuts’ minimal $0.23 cost, no shop owner allows diners to purchase 4/5 of a pastry (the approximate amount containing 200 calories). At the same time one would need to eat 50 baby carrots, 100 grapes or 200 sticks of celery to reach the arbitrary established threshold, and the U.S. Food Pyramid only calls for a few cups of fruits and veggies per day (which is hardly a call to eat a tree’s worth of apples).Even if Americans were able to polish off half the produce aisle, the cheap food defense still attracts criticism for its oversimplified approach. Last year economists Mary Burke and Frank Heiland asserted in their policy paper, The Social Dynamics of Obesity: "Obesity rates have continued to rise since the mid 1990s, despite an apparent leveling off of price declines." And economist Carol Graham points out in an August 25, 2006 Wall Street Journal article, "If it’s merely a story of cheap and readily available food, why then aren’t the rich the fattest? "