Letter to NY Times Editor: Take the Calories Off the Street

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Check out my perspective as published in the September 12 edition of The New York Times on how to address America’s obesity epidemic:
 
In response to “Big Food vs. Big Insurance” September 9
 
To the Editor:
 
I applaud Michael Pollan’s recognition that obesity is the “elephant in the room” in the health care debate, but dissent on his solutions.

Taxing specific products such as soft drinks or creating yet another educational program will not get the job done. Multiple studies have demonstrated that “fat” taxes will not appreciably lower obesity rates, while attempts to change consumer eating behavior have historically come up short.
 
The real enemy is the number of excess calories available for consumption, regardless of the source. The only way to slim down this beast is to engage the food industry.
 
Rather than alienate or overregulate the industry, my recommendation is to put into effect tax incentives that would entice food companies to sell fewer calories. If they cut their calories, they would be rewarded. If they continued to spew excess calories on the public, they would risk losing favorable tax treatments.

This approach is well worth discussing. Our nation’s health depends on it.
 
Henry J. Cardello
Chapel Hill, N.C., Sept. 10, 2009
 
The writer is a former food industry executive and author of “Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat.”

5 Responses to “Letter to NY Times Editor: Take the Calories Off the Street”

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  4. Sam Vance says:

    My only concern, if I could play the devils advocate here, is something I like to call The Race To Zero. I served on an advisory board for Ohio State’s Campus Dining Services, a huge entity that does $36,000,000/yr in sales. They debated putting calories right on the menu display for the foods they were serving. An objection came from a girl that worked in nutrition and observed that many girls on campus would immediately see how little calories they could consume. This is what I call the Race To Zero. I think we need to educate people on how to calculate the number of calories they really need and make this a part of school health class and some Dr’s exams.

    Sure, there are many food where we can analyze the formulation and shave calories w/outeffecting the integrity of the product, but we must avoid a situation where many people start seeing how little they can eat.

  5. Hank says:

    You make a good point Sam. In my opinion, the best approach is to lower the calories at the source, and simply incent the food companies to sell fewer calories WITHOUT asking the consumer to count them.

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