Philly Food Buzz: Taxes and Labels

Yes, I’m a busy posting bee this weekend (buzz buzz).  Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused at work when there’s food on the mind –- more than the chewing variety — so I’ll start a post, and then I’m not able to finish it until the weekend affords me the time.  This past week two local headlines caught my eye:

Possible tax on soda and sugary beverages in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is in debt.  With Mayor Nutter delivering his budget proposal on March 4, it is rumored that a possible tax on sugared drinks could be included.  With expected layoffs and service cuts, all options are being pursued to help generate revenue and dig the city out of the red.  The New England Journal of Medicine published a convincing paper on the concept of taxing sugared drinks.  Here are a summary of the findings:

  • Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has been shown to increase one’s risk of chronic diseases.
  • The rising burden of disease related to poor diet is escalating health care costs.
  • Research suggests that a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would have strong positive effects on reducing consumption. 
  • The tax has the potential to generate substantial revenue to prevent obesity, address health care costs related to chronic diseases, and fund other health-related programs.

Philadelphia enforces menu labeling law.

Philadelphia began enforcing its new menu labeling law, which requires restaurants with more than 15 locations nationwide to post calorie counts of foods on the menu and at drive-thrus.  This topic is nicely covered by one of my new go-to Philly blogs, Food-Fitness-FreshAir, that I’ll keep this post short and sweet.  While I’m not convinced that this is the best method to curb unhealthy eating habits, it supports an environment to help individuals make better choices.  Preparing foods at home really is optimal to help control nutrient content – and people need to get moving!   Stay tuned to see how/if Philadelphians are impacted…

Both headlines indicate a re-engineering of our current environment through policy to promote healthier lifestyles.  While it’s somewhat bothersome that it takes a city $100 million in debt to act sensibly on a public health crisis, I appreciate any story that generates more thought and visibility to how we can help solve this problem; particularly in a city that carries the distinguished ranking as one of the fattest cities in America. It’s disheartening that we’ve gotten to a point where we need to rely on government policy to fix something as natural as the food we eat; yet policy surely does shape our environment, and there’s convincing argument that government has helped foster the health concerns we are dealing with today (see Pollan post).

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