Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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Follow Friday: Ignore Evidence. Deny Science. Minimize Problems. Then Cry ‘Freedom! (And Invoke the Nanny State)


Interesting read by Rob Waters about corporate food and the nanny state in Forbes.


Will there be KD in the nanny state?

I have mixed feelings about the petition by a couple of food bloggers in the US for Kraft to remove the food dyes (yellow #5 and yellow #6) from their ubiquitous Kraft Dinner.

Initially, I was going to write a post about how frivolous I think the petition is. How removing food dyes from KD is not going to make it any less nutritionally void. You know, play devil’s advocate, ruffle a few feathers, because that’s what I like to do. While I do believe this to be true, and a part of me thinks that advocacy efforts could be put to much better use, I do also see some merit in their efforts. Realistically, people are not going to stop eating Kraft Dinner, or feeding it to their children. And you know, as an occasional treat that shouldn’t be a big deal.

Why does Kraft Dinner in the UK (and some other European countries) use natural food colourings rather than the artificial yellows used in Canada and the US? This is because their governments have decided to err on the side of caution. Where there is indication that a small number of individuals suffer allergic reactions from exposure to these colourings, and there is insufficient research to determine whether or not these dyes may have harmful long-term effects (such as being carcinogens) instead of allowing the population to unwittingly assume the risks they have taken steps to protect their citizens by banning these dyes. I’m all for that sort of initiative on the part of government. Oh sure, some of you might say that it’s a nanny state, we should be allowed to have our unnaturally brilliantly coloured nutritionally void food if we want to. You know me though, I like a good old nanny state if it’s going to be looking out for my better interests.

Sadly, our governments (in Canada and the US) are far more concerned with pandas and drones than the safety of our food supply. And that’s where efforts such as those by the bloggers become worthwhile. Yes, we should continue to put pressure on our governments to better regulate food additives, in the meantime if we can convince food manufactures to voluntarily remove these dyes from the foods they make then that’s a positive step in the right direction. So, while KD would not necessarily have been my first choice of food to target, if the formulation of this product is changed then hopefully the formulation of others will follow suit.

For more information on food dyes check out the report: Food Dyes a Rainbow of Risks by CSPI.


The right to drink soda

I have to admit I was pretty disappointed when the news came out the other day that a New York judge had overturned Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on sales of cups of pop larger than 16 oz just hours before it was to come into effect. Reading Jennifer Sygo’s take on the subject was interesting. Even more interesting though, was reading the comments below her article. Sometimes I’m glad that my blog isn’t widely enough read to garner so many comments.

It blows my mind that people think it’s unreasonable to be limited to purchasing pop in increments of 16 oz. How dare the government interfere in our freedom to drink vast quantities of nutritionally void bubbly sugar-water! It seems that (most) everyone agrees that obesity and malnutrition are top contributors to illness and mortality in North America. The solution is not as simple as to “eat less and move more”. If there was a simple solution do you really think that the majority of North Americans would be overweight? The causes and solutions are much deeper than that. Without systematic efforts, from a number of directions, we’re not going to see improvements to our health as a population.

As many have pointed out, many retailers had already started implementing the restrictions on cup sizes. I hope that these retailers will take the initiative to carry on doing this even without the legislation being in effect.

I certainly don’t think that a ban on massive sodas is going to end the obesity “epidemic” but I think that it’s one piece of a complicated puzzle.


Finally weighing in on the NYC soda ban

I’ve been finding the response to NYC’s recent ban on the sale of pop (soda to you Americans) in containers larger than 16 oz interesting, and telling. A recent poll in the States found that many citizens are opposed to government involvement in deciding what we eat. These respondents don’t want the government to restrict pop size, post calories, or limit fast food outlets. The notion that the government isn’t already deeply involved in determining our diets is a little naive. Why do you think that pop is so inexpensive anyway? Government subsidies to sugar producers, that’s why.

The main reasons people cite for not eating healthily are lack of time and affordability. Why do we lack time? Because our society has been constructed around the notion that putting in long hours at sedentary jobs is ideal. Why are healthy foods (at least perceived to be) less affordable than their unhealthy counterparts? Because ingredients that go into “junk” foods are often subsidized by the government, allowing the food industry to produce them cheaply and advertise them relentlessly.

The government decides how our cities are built, what developers are given permits to build. The government is already deeply involved in the lengthy process of determining what and when foods pass through your lips. These decisions may not be as obvious as bans on big gulp sodas, but in a way that makes them even more important because we’re not consciously aware of their impact on our lives. We live in an obesogenic environment. It’s currently far harder to be a healthy weight than is it be overweight or obese. This is not a matter of personal choice.

Banning large soda sales is a great step in the right direction. No one ever needs to have a pop as big as 16 oz, let along larger. Clearly we are unable to avoid the lure of “value” for our money. We need to government to step in and help us to help ourselves. As I said before, as long as we’re going to act like children we are in need of a so-called nanny state.