Americans Support Food Freedom by a Wide Margin

A new
poll finds Americans have little stomach “for policies that
would constrain consumer choices…such as limits on the amount or
type of food that can be purchased or taxes on unhealthy foods or
drinks.”The national poll of more than 1,000 U.S. adults, released last
week by the Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs
Research at the University of Chicago, contains several
“[s]ignificant findings” that bolster the case for food
freedom.Respondents expressed universal opposition to food bans and
taxes. While opposition to bans on marketing “unhealthy foods aimed
at children” only trumped support slightly, opponents of taxing
those same foods outnumbered supporters by a nearly 2-1 margin, and
those who opposed “[l]imiting the types or amounts of foods and
drinks people can buy” outnumbered supporters of food bans by a
startling 5-1 margin (74 percent to 15 percent).Furthermore, when asked whether maintaining a healthy weight was
something “the whole community, including the schools, government,
health care providers, and the food industry should deal with,”
less than one-third of respondents favored that approach, while 52
percent stated this was “something individuals should deal with on
their own.”The study reveals 97 percent of respondents believe the most
likely cause of obesity is sedentary inactivity related to “TV,
video game[s] and computer[s].”While I don’t claim to know the root cause(s) of obesity, this
strong belief among respondents that Americans are obese because we
sit on our butts too much has been echoed by research. For example,
in a 2005 article
in the Annual Review of Public Health, “Economic Causes
and Consequences of Obesity,” researcher Eric Finkelstein and his
colleagues looked at the results of four previous obesity studies
and found “[t]he published evidence, although not conclusive,
suggests that technology may be primarily responsible for the
obesity epidemic.”Amazingly, the very same study by Finkelstein was later used as
the sole scientific basis of New York City’s soda ban.When I filed
comments this past summer on behalf of Keep Food Legal and its
members in opposition to the ban, I blasted it in part because, I
wrote, “the only evidence” New York City’s health department had
cited as a basis for the proposed ban was Finkelstein’s “2005
Annual Review of Public Health journal article” which, I argued,
“might better be used to support a ban on iPhones, televisions, or
public transportation.”While the AP/NORC poll can be used to further bolster the case
for food freedom against disingenuous, restrictive policies like
that adopted in New York, it also provides a welcome counter to
some recent frank research with which I nonetheless have taken
issue.In a
column last summer, I expressed skepticism over the results of
a survey research paper authored by Prof. Jayson Lusk, who
concluded “that a majority of respondents can be classified as
‘food statists’… who support ‘more government action in the realm
food and agricultural relative to the status quo.’”I offered largely anecdotal opposition to Lusk’s conclusion,
writing that “people who champion food freedom… make up a much
larger percentage of the population than this research would
indicate.”While I didn’t need a poll to tell me that what I see every day
in my own work reflects a larger consensus across the country, I’m
nonetheless grateful that the AP/NORC poll results do reflect this
reality. And though the poll has so far received little fanfare
beyond an AP
article (hardly unexpected), I believe the poll results
are a welcome shot in the arm for supporters of the food freedom
movement—and a shot across the bow of its opponents.Those opponents are legion in academia, public health, and the
media.Two days after the AP/NORC published its poll results, an

op-ed calling for increased regulation of the food supply
appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.The author, Dr. Robert Lustig, urged the FDA to cap the amount
of added sugar that can appear in any foods.


Americans Support Food Freedom by a Wide Margin

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