Junk-food taxes are often mentioned as a way to help fund a restructuring of the healthcare system, though no one in Congress has endorsed them.The notion is catching on with the general public, however. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll last month found that 55% of respondents favored a tax on unhealthful snack foods, up from 52% in April. Support for a soda tax rose to 53% from 46%.
But there's a problem . . .
Junk-food taxes are also unfair, because the poor would be hardest hit, said fiction writer Julie Cochrane of Marshall, Va.: "I am not about to raise taxes on a single mom scraping by on a low-wage job." Still, the logic of a junk-food tax seems clear. Fattening foods tend to be cheap, and fresh produce and lean cuts of meat are often the priciest. A tax could help offset that imbalance, nudging people to eat more of what they should and less of what they shouldn't.
Not to mention the problem of creating more bureaucracy over a bag of Cheetos. And expect new legislation because, after all, what constitutes "junk food?" Would you consider a bag of potato chips to be junk food? If I buy a Hostess Ding Dong, and then go to an upscale Sprinkles cucpcake bakery, isn't it really one in the same?
I don't think the American diet of the past was all that healthy. People sat down to dinner with a lot of fats present - real butter and bread, and dinner was usually followed by a dessert. However, a lot of those calories were offset by activity and - and I think this is key - the food was not processed. Shelf-life on an item was limited, which means you had to go shopping more often. And because of the lack of globalization, people ate seasonally - sorry, no tangerines until Christmas.
So here's my proposal - tax the manufacturers. If you make a food with cheap high fructose corn syrup or added preservatives, you get taxed. Sure, they will raise the cost of the product but I am willing to bet that eventually one manufacturer will compete by making a product without it and one that people will buy more often because it won't last as long.
Does that sound crazy? Why wouldn't manufacturers make a product that lasted instead of one that - as natural foods do - begin to "go bad" forcing the consumer to either eat it or let it go to waste, and then have to buy some more?
I like the advice of one author I read regarding nutrition: If it didn't come from the ground or it didn't have a mother - don't eat it.