"Chocoholic" is a term normally reserved for Hallmark cards and the Oprah show. But if Yale professor Kelly Brownell and other food cops have their way, the familiar phrase may soon be central to interventions and court proceedings. In a press release announcing a conference on food "addiction," Brownell is elevating snack cravings to the level of drug abuse: "Everything changes if food is found to have addictive properties, especially the legal and legislative landscape around marketing foods to children."
The linchpin for the food-is-cocaine notion is that tasty food triggers a release of pleasure hormones. After repeated exposures (aka "lunches") this biological response traps junkies (aka "eaters") into a preoccupation with food and anticipation of the ensuing pleasure (aka "dinners").
This burger-bender ballyhoo in nothing new. In fact, four years ago we interjected some common sense when opinion editors at The Wall Street Journal subscribed to the food addiction hype: "If you thought the real dangers to children’s health were smoking, drugs or drunk driving, you are clearly old-fashioned. The new threat is from . . . Oreo cookies." Today is no different.
In this morning’s USA Today, we offer (yet again) some perspective on the matter: "This is a dumbing down of the term ‘addiction.’ The term is being overused. People are not holding up convenience stores to get their hands on Twinkies."
Measures like this one really feed another addiction: frivolous lawsuits. So far, trial lawyers like John Banzhaf and Stephen Joseph have failed in their attempts to sue food companies for their customers’ choices. By shifting obesity from an issue of personal responsibility to one of mental disorders, nutrition activists hope to turn "big food" into the next tobacco-style cash cow.