MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND NEW YORK LOSE TO FEDS AND BEVERAGE INDUSTRY
In a policy decision handed down from the USDA, the federal government has refused to grant Mayor Bloomberg and New York City permission to stop allowing New York’s needy residents to buy high calorie, sucrose and high fructose corn syrup laden soft drinks with food stamps.
Mayor Bloomberg and the City of New York, among many other government entities around the world, have been trialing numerous efforts to combat the obesity epidemic among adults and children. New York requires posting of a calorie content of many foods for sale. And in the latest effort the Bloomberg administration sought to disallow high calorie soft drinks among the list of subsidized items that needy residents could purchase using the food stamp program. The federal government however disagreed and this refusal to grant the waver was met with relief by the soft drink industry.
What is striking about this turn of events and intergovernmental decision making is that it points to just how difficult the battle against childhood obesity is going to be. If stopping the purchase of high calorie, sugared drinks using food stamps cannot be universally politically agreed upon then imagine how difficult it is going to be to tackle even more challenging aspects of the obesity epidemic where even more entrenched business interests fear a loss of market share or profits. The increased consumption of high calorie, high carbohydrate soft drinks is one of the many factors linked to the childhood obesity epidemic. It makes absolutely no sense for the government in any way shape or form to consume more high sugar, high calorie drinks during the midst of the epidemic. Nor should the government encourage other similarly risky behaviors through subsidies if they are harmful to the individuals and harmful to the public. Certainly, many people might choose to purchase high sugared drinks using other monies and that in no way of course would be prohibited under the proposed New York change in the food stamps program. But to argue that the tax payers ought to incentivize or encourage children to consume one of the most obesogenic foods during the midst of the rampant obesity epidemic, strains credulity.