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Do We Need to Know What'’s in Junk Food?

Hank Cardello

Focusing on food package labels as a panacea for the nations overweight and obesity crisis is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic: lots of activity, but no real impact. Too much emphasis is placed on micromanaging acceptable levels of trans fats, sodium or the type of sugar used rather than focusing on the big picture. We need to engage the food corporations to lower the calories.

Labels alone cannot change the fact that for Americans there is 29 percent more calories available to eat than 50 years ago. Obesity is a supply problem and must be dealt with at the source.

A better way to start reducing Americas collective girth is to give food corporations incentives to sell less calories in a way that does not damage their bottom lines. One novel approach would be to adjust the deductions food corporations receive for their advertising expenditures based on their willingness to cut back on calories.

Companies that lower calories get to maintain their deductions. Those that do an exceptional job of cutting calories by more than 10 percent in a year can receive even higher deductions. And those that continue to spew excess calories on their customers would forfeit a percentage of these favorable tax treatments.

Unlike punitive fat taxes on soda, candy and snacks, which hurt industry sales, raise costs to consumers, and result in corporate push-back, a better approach would give food companies reason to reduce the calories they sell. Its time to recognize that the food manufacturers must be a partner in helping to solve the obesity problem.

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