Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Munchable Soapbox: Obesogenic Food

We live in a world of extremes - excessive wealth, severe poverty; overindulgence, chronic hunger. In the U.S., nearly 15% of households experience hunger. Yet, at the same time, over 1/3 of the adult population is obese. Earlier this month, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (the man who brought you agroecology to feed the world) published a report on undernourishment amongst the overweight and obese.

Dr. Oliver De Schutter called for the "ability to have a balanced and nutritious diet." He critiques the type of calories being provided to people, noting the prevalence of highly processed food in modern global diets. In terms of these "obesogenic" foods, the Special Rapporteur recommends taxation, regulation, removal of subsidies, and the promotion of local, fresh foods.

Some countries, such as Denmark and its "fat tax," are already implementing such (dis)incentive structures. Conversely, even progressive cities like Seattle, are unable to pass the smallest soda tax for fear of 'harming the economy.' Mark Bittman discussed last year the pros and cons of a junk-food tax, and other means to get Americans to eat healthy food (apparently we need all the motivation we can get). But the message is out there - part of humanity is plagued by lack of adequate food, while another portion suffers lack of quality food (and many want for both).

Yes, someday our sloth and poor eating habits could lead us here (after we've trashed our planet and moved on...). This saddens and frightens me, but many of us have the capacity to make healthy food choices. Read the full report here.

Mark Bittman's NY Times article also sheds light into the quantity vs. quality conversations around calories.

No comments: