At the Center for Consumer Freedom, we read activists’ bad ideas every day. Whether they want to tax soda, put meaningless labels on perfectly safe foods produced with biotechnology, or scare consumers about hamburger processing, the food activists and public health bureaucrats can get more than a bit ridiculous. However, we feel these proposals take the cake for government overreach and certainty of failure at making people healthier. We present the first set of CCF’s Tasteless Ten Worst Proposals from a banner year in anti-food activism.
Abolishing the Food Industry Entirely: In an article for The Atlantic, one activist with an anti-corporate ax to grind claims that “The food industry is an oligopoly that has transformed not only what we eat but how we eat it, and what we think of food.” His solution is to get rid of industrial food production, saying that would make us “dream ourselves freer still.” Sorry, but most of us don’t want to be subsistence farmers. The comforts of modern civilization demand modern farming practices. Give up one, and you necessarily lose the other. That’s no dream.
Banning the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet: In the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, an in-house publication of former top NYC regulatory scold Thomas Frieden’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two researchers explored alcohol regulation as a possible model for total food control. The summary table supplied at the end of the article lists a series of possible bans and controls, and the death of the Smorgasbord is mooted. Now, it might not be wise to eat at an all-you-can-chow bar every day, but a few feasts a year never hurt anybody.
Banning the Sale of Soda to Teens Under 17: An article published in February that became an instant classic in the genre of totalitarian fantasizing in the name of “public health” raised a such a stir that NBC Nightly News invited CCF’s Senior Research Analyst on to shoot down the crazy ideas. Perhaps the worst was proposing that “We I.D.” policies be extended to soft drinks. Whatever happened to parental responsibility? Should we throw kids in jail for having a soda? Other researchers proposed extending this horrible idea to any food that is controlled in school. In an ideal world of “public health,” it might mean goodbye, birthday cake.
Limiting the Size of Hamburgers to ¼ Pound: When Mayor Bloomberg announced big-ish soda prohibition in New York City, many wondered what Bloomberg would regulate next. Many of us worried that soda was merely the thin end of the diet-regulating wedge. But one political commentator for The Daily Beast expressed hope that it would lead to more intrusion, saying, “Eight- and ten-ounce burgers are sick things.” He proposed expanding the ban to theoretically any food, and members of Bloomberg’s Board of Health employed similar reasoning in debating the measure. Start hoarding your favorite treats now, New Yorkers.
Cap-and-Trade for Sugar: In a US News and World Report article, a writer speculated that a cap-and-trade system for added sweeteners — sugars — would improve public health. (Cap-and-trade is a policy that sets a national limit on some negative thing — usually an environmental pollutant — and requires that people buy allowances to use it.) Such a system would drive up food prices and be a massive government overreach. And that assumes that such a system would work—after all, fruits are mostly sugars. Mexican and Canadian shopkeepers might be the only people pleased that this plan exists: Dodging would be rampant. (Remember Prohibition?)