As America’s food police look for support for “Twinkie taxes” on foods they don’t like, they might draw support from researchers across the pond. The big news out of Britain today is that researchers claim that a “fat tax” on certain foods as well as other heavy-handed big-government measures could work miracles for the average Englishman's health:
A ‘fat tax’ on unhealthy foods, restrictions on junk food advertising and better labelling are the most cost-effective ways to cut obesity, a study suggests.
It says the measures would give England’s 52 million population an extra 270,000 years of good health between them.
An extra 270,000 years sure sounds like a long time, right? Except…when you divide it up over England's 52 million people, it turns out that each person will only gain an extra .005 years. That’s 1.8 days. Even if you only count England's officially obese population — about 13 million people — that still only adds up to about one week per person.
This is a textbook example of how health nannies and researchers with an agenda massage the numbers. Still, English food cops could learn a thing or two from American finger-waggers. You have to be more clever when disguising the figures. We defanged this study’s talking point with a simple calculator.
Naturally, the authors of this study took their findings to one bloody illogical conclusion:
A key proposal suggests treating foods high in fat, salt and sugar in the same way as tobacco, where advertising is restricted and price has been pushed up to discourage use.
Sounds like Kelly Brownell has had a few speaking engagements in Cambridge. Brownell, a nutrition scold at Yale University, has said, "I recommend we develop a militant attitude about the toxic food environment, like we have about tobacco." Of course, this is a preposterous comparison. Unlike tobacco, we need food to live. Everybody has to eat, and all foods have calories that provide energy. And there's also no legitimate evidence that shows foods to be addictive in the same way as nicotine.
Crusading against the building blocks of nutrition is absurdity worthy of a Monty Python sketch. Yet the British Food Standards Agency is rumored to be considering just such a fat tax. Let's hope our friends in the Old World embrace personal choice instead of food fascism.