New York Times, Letter to the Editor
September 11, 2009
by Hank Cardello
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.
Hank Cardello is a Hudson Institute Senior Fellow and Director of the Obesity Solutions Initiative.
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