Through my work on agriculture, I get occasional media calls on obesity and the agri‐industrial complex supposedly behind it. On Sunday, for example, I gave an interview on NPR about the USDA’s push for — and subsidisation of — farmers markets and “eating locally” as the solution to poor nutrition. (This a recurrent theme of the Obama administration: Michelle Obama has made people’s food habits her business, growing a White House Garden and driving in a convoy of 36 vehicles to the H Street farmers’ market in a photo‐op to promote it. The USDA even has a “People’s Garden”.)
So an article in today’s New York Times caught my eye. According to a recent study, the push for calorie postings in restaurants has had no affect on people’s eating habits in certain low‐income areas of New York City. People’s choices are, apparently, pretty impermeable to the information that nutrition and public health advocates assured us was the key to better choices.
You would be forgiven for thinking that was the end of the matter and we could go on eating what we like unharassed. Think again:
“I think it does show us that labels are not enough,” Brian Elbel, an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study, said in an interview.
I hope I’m not coming across as hyperbolic, but I find it difficult to believe that healthy eating advocates will be content to accept that people are making choices, unpalatable though they may be to the “slow food” movement, based on the benefits and costs of the alternatives available to them. If people won’t voluntarily submit to the food police — even when information is available — then I suspect calls for regulation will soon follow.
(HT: Radley Balko)