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Are we subsidizing the obesity crisis?

FoodFacts.com is always interested in new information that helps us gain better insight into the skyrocketing obesity epidemic. We have great concern about the availability and nutritional quality of the processed foods and beverages in our grocery stores and fast food chains and are constantly offering education regarding the ingredients being used in our food supply. Obesity is a real problem in our society – one that affects the health and well-being of millions in our population.

Today we found information we want to make sure everyone in our community is aware of. A new report released by the U.S. PIRG (the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups) reveals that one billion dollars of federal tax money is subsidizing ingredients used in processed foods and beverages. We are financially supporting commodity crops used for additives like high-fructose corn syrup with enough tax dollars to effectively purchase 20 Twinkies every year for every taxpayer in our nation. By contrast, subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy each of us just one half of an apple each year.

These subsidies are part of the Farm Bill that expires in September. Both the Farm Bill approved by the U.S. Senate and the one that passed the House last Thursday would continue these subsidies.

The report indicates that as the obesity epidemic continues to grow each year, our food policy seems to be subsidizing the food and beverage products that are helping to fuel it. Between 1995 and 2012, American taxpayers spent more than $290 billion in agricultural subsidies. 75 percent of the subsidies go to just 3.8 percent of farmers. The subsidies mainly support a few commodity crops, including corn and soybeans. Among other uses, food manufacturers process corn and soy crops into additives like high-fructose corn syrup and vegetable oil – two of the ingredients that add excess sugar and fat to processed products.

Some of the report’s findings to take note of:

• Between 1995 and 2012, more than $19 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additives – corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils. At $7.30 per taxpayer per year, that would buy each taxpayer 20 Twinkies.

• Outside of commodity crops, other agricultural products received very little in federal subsidies. Since 1995, taxpayers spent only $689 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables. Coming to 26 cents per taxpayer per year, that would buy less than half of one Red Delicious apple.

So as childhood obesity continues to rise and the obese population experiences a plethora of weight-related health problems, our tax dollars continue to support the ingredients that keep consumers coming back for more sugary and fatty food choices. FoodFacts.com finds this quite confusing. While we understand that research points to obesity as a complex problem with many contributing causes, it’s no secret that processed foods contain too much sugar and fat. And yet we’re actually supporting the very ingredients that play a role in the current epidemic. As a community of nutritionally-aware individuals, we can continue to do our part by remembering our own commitment to quality food choices, fresh ingredients and sharing knowledge. You can download the report here for the complete information it contains.

https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/07/16

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