The policies and public health strategies that we have implemented are proving inadequate for controlling the global epidemic of obesity.
Peer-reviewed policies from the finest minds in public health are inadequate? Say it ain't so!
An effective approach may be for governments to implement radical policy change – regulate food consumption and control the food industry in a similar way to the tobacco industry.
But...but...tobacco is a "unique product". You swore that this kind of "slippery slope" would never happen.
Oh well, guess we were fooled agin. So what's the plan now?
- higher taxes on fast foods.
- Local government tax revenue on fat- and sugar-dense foods could be used to provide subsidies for fruits and vegetables
- pricing strategies to promote purchases of healthier foods increasing the availability and lowering the cost of foods that are low in fat and less energy-dense
- banning fast-food advertising on the television, radio, and mass media, and with sport increasing social marketing of healthy foods requiring manufacturers to put health warnings, and use traffic-light labels on selected foods and drinks
- providing financial incentives to manufacturers and food outlets to sell smaller portion sizes
- and rationing the purchase of selected foods.
There is a lot to make the jaw drop here, but let's focus on that last gem.
During the second world war (1939–1945), the British government introduced food rationing with a point system in every household. Everyone was allocated a number of points a month and certain food items, such as meat, fish, biscuits, sugar, fats, and tea, were rationed.
Every adult was given a total of 16 points a month and could choose how to spend these points. Special supplements were available for young children, pregnant women, and people with certain diseases. Wartime food shortages and government directives forced people to adopt different eating patterns. They ate considerably less meat, eggs, and sugar than they do today. [No shit!—CJS]
Rationing was enforced in Britain for 14 years, and continued after the war had ended. Meat was finally derationed in June 1954. Petrol was also rationed, so people stopped buying and using cars, and public transport was limited. There was no “obesity epidemic” [nor had there ever been—CJS] as food supply and travel was limited, meaning people ate less and did more physical exercise (walking).
Interestingly, during the years when rationing was enforced, the prevalence of obesity was negligible in the United Kingdom. And waste was minimised as both individuals and government agencies were busy finding new ways of reducing the waste of food resources to a minimum (sustainable consumption).
Is it conceivable that some form of food rationing and portion control may help address the dramatic rise in obesity and the sustainability of our foods supply? If we continue to over-consume foods in unsustainable ways for both our health and our planet, we may be left with no other choice.
Once again, I find it almost impossible to summon up the words to describe the policies of Australia's public health establishment (the author of this piece is the director of Canberra's Centre for Research & Action in Public Health). I'm tempted to say that I warned you this would happen, but that would be untrue.
Student of the slippery slope though I am, I never thought that someone would seriously suggest that the government should introduce war-time restrictions on food in response to people being chubby. What an interesting place Australia is these days.