Culinary no-no #495


Our family returned last week from another wonderful vacation at the Mouse House in Orlando, Florida where we had plenty of dining and snack options.  Some 30 years ago Walt Disney World was, when it came to culinary offerings, a virtual desert. Every restaurant essentially offered entrees of roast beef, turkey, and ham. With extremely rare exceptions that was basically it.

As the tourist destination became increasingly more popular travelers demanded greater and higher quality choices, and Disney responded. Today Walt Disney World is a foodie’s dream with more than something for everyone.

An obligatory stop for us on any trip to the theme parks is the  Hollywood Studios.

We like to grab a quick bite and coffee in the morning before hitting the rides, attractions, and shops at the Starring Rolls Café, a counter service restaurant.

No matter the time of day Starring Rolls (love that name) offered very nice (and big) sandwiches.

And knock your socks off pastries.

On this past trip we couldn’t help but notice a group of two men and two women at the table right next to us. That’s four people.

Their tray tables included 7 of each: sandwiches, pastries, soft drinks.

I didn’t need any personal medical data about any of them to know…

They definitely fit  into the category of obese.

Not surprising. The crowd at our food court at the Pop Century resort was filled with identical folks every day.

Granted, they were on vacation, a time to splurge and enjoy. And so they did. Despite their abundant girth.

Government believes it needs to step in and save this overweight bunch from themselves (because government is the cure to all of our troubles). The thought process is that if government imposes a sin tax, a tax on on unhealthy food and drinks, that people will eat and drink less and thus, lose weight and become healthier.

The key is to sucker the public into imposing the higher taxes on themselves by approving the increases at the ballot box.

Last week voters in three San Francisco Bay Area cities (San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany) approved penny-per-ounce taxes on energy, sweetened tea and sports drinks, but not on diet sodas or naturally sweetened drinks (those are probably coming later). In Boulder, Colorado, a 2-cent per ounce tax was approved that will be applied to distributors of soda and other drinks with at least 5 grams of added sweetener per 12 ounces. Milk products, baby formula, medicinal drinks and alcohol would be exempted.

Revenue from some of these taxes is supposed to be earmarked for education programs and non-profit organizations.

Proponents of the tax point to…

In Mexico a 10% countrywide tax on sugar-sweetened beverages was implemented in 2014. Mexico has a high rate of diabetes, with 14% of Mexican adults affected. In 2010, 31.5 gallons of soft drinks per person were consumed in Mexico. A study published on November 1 in the journal PLOS Medicine showed the tax is paying dividends.

Researchers conducted a computer simulation study in order to understand the potential impact of the tax on diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, mortality, and healthcare costs associated with diabetes among Mexican adults 35–94 years of age over a period of 10 years (2013–2022).

They found that the 10% tax will likely prevent approximately 189,300 new cases of type 2 diabetes, 20,400 incident strokes and heart attacks, and 18,900 deaths over 10 years among adults 35–94 years of age, and is expected to result in 983 million international dollars in savings in healthcare costs because of the prevention of diabetes cases.

The largest reductions in health burden and healthcare spending are projected to occur among the youngest adults included in the simulation (those 35–44 years of age). With the largest effects of the tax observed among the youngest age group modeled, we expect the impact of the intervention to become more dramatic as the population ages.

Last week’s voting results signal that similar measures will probably pop up elsewhere in America.

“This is a very strong message to the soda industry, and this will lead to the introduction of new proposals all across the country,” said Dr. John Maa, secretary of the San Francisco Medical Society.

But there’s another side to the soda tax and Mexico study issue.

The International Council of Beverages Association emphasizes that soft drink consumption in Mexico was reduced by only 11.6 milliliters (about two teaspoons) per person per day.

“The facts show that this tax has resulted in an insignificant calorie reduction per person per day in 2014, with no apparent health benefit,” the association said in a statement.

“We do know through academic studies and from the marketplace that the tax reduced 10,000 jobs, caused a decline in Mexican GDP, and increased the tax burden on the poor; all without any evident improvement in public health. The beverage industry understands that (the) overweight and obesity issue is a very complicated one, and it will not be solved by a singular simplistic solution like a discriminatory tax. In Mexico, our companies are working well with government and civil society on meaningful solutions, and we would hope the tax-only advocates would join this more meaningful approach.”

Indeed, the goal of having people drink healthier is based on hope, not a guarantee.

And check out this letter to the editor of a Boulder, Colorado newspaper published before last week’s election:

About the “sugar tax.” I feel this is unnecessary and sets a dangerous precedent. If Healthy Boulder Kids wants funding for healthy eating programs, they should do like all the other human service nonprofits have done — fund themselves through donations instead of a tax.

If the “sugar tax” passes, the precedent will be set for other nonprofits to ask for taxes to support their needs. Will the homeless shelter ask for a tax on blankets? Will food banks ask for a tax on canned goods? Will learning programs ask for a tax on school supplies? Where will it stop?

Limiting the amount of sugar in children’s diet is the responsibility of the parents. My wife and I managed to raise our children and manage their sugar intake without a tax. I am in favor of educating people about overconsumption of sugar but not in favor of funding the programs through a special tax. How many of their goals could have been met with the money they have already spent for this campaign?

The claim is that this is a tax on the distributors, not on retailers. Do we really believe that distributors are not going to pass this tax along to retailers? And if they do, who is to say that the retailers won’t increase prices on other goods to cover the tax so their soda sales don’t suffer?

Bingo on all counts.

And yes, what’s next?


This could ruin your Thanksgiving dinner

Eat an avocado, ruin the environment




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