A Stimulus for Food Cops’ Appetites

In case you missed it, we noted last week that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (an economic “stimulus” bill passed by Congress last year) includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to decrease the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. New York (home of the self-anointed Big Apple food police) will receive $259,931 to “reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.” And $1,198,785 is earmarked for Colorado to, among other things, reduce soft drink consumption. In other words, the federal government is using taxpayer dollars to tell taxpayers what not to buy. (Clearly, this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind.)
It’s hard to see how this part of the “recovery” plan helps regular Americans get healthier. For one, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is not associated with youth weight gain, according to a growing body of academic research. There are also serious doubts about the reliability of contradictory research supposedly proving a “link” between soft drink consumption and obesity. So reducing consumption isn’t likely to have positive health effects.
These “recovery” grants may simply be a new food-police approach to the familiar goals of unpopular soft drink taxes— the supposed “solution” to the soda “crisis.” Both Colorado and New York are considering similar taxes. (One plan just squeaked through the Centennial State’s legislature.) Both have drawn severe criticism—including a protest at an Empire State bottling plant—on the basis that the taxes will cost jobs by shrinking businesses. One estimate puts the job loss at up to 800 in Colorado alone.
Federal government grants could have the same effect on employment if they were to actually succeed in their goal to reduce soft drink consumption. It’s hard to see how job loss fits into the feds’ plan for economic “stimulus.” Maybe the grants are just a way to help diet dictators “recover” from bingeing on heavy-handed naysaying—and stay gainfully employed.

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