Congress is considering taxing soda pop to pay for the health care “overhaul” proposed by President Obama. This is being recommended by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. While this might at first glance seem like an OK thing, I want to talk for a minute about my grave concerns with this idea, and what those have to do with natural living.
This quote from the Wall Street Journal article quoted above. (Pause for a moment while I consider how much I miss my daily WSJ read that I endulged in when I was working. It was, in fact, a part of my job. Getting paid to read the paper, doesn’t get much better than that.)
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based watchdog group that pressures food companies to make healthier products, plans to propose a federal excise tax on soda, certain fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks and ready-to-drink teas. It would not include most diet beverages. Excise taxes are levied on goods and manufacturers typically pass them on to consumers.
They are going to tax drinks with sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup. Not those with artificial sweetener.
Thus, should the Federal Government decide to go along with this proposal, they will essentially be saying that the official US Government position is that artificial sweeteners (man-made chemicals) are healthier than and preferred over natural sweeteners (sugar, honey, etc.).
In fact, since diet pops will be a bit cheaper (assuming the beverage industry doesn’t raise the price of diet at the same time, just because they can), Congress might actually push consumers into choosing artificial sweeteners over natural sweeteners.
If you need a refresher course on why artificial sweetener is not exactly health food, check this article at Wikipedia, information from Mercola, this list of articles, and this from Dr Sears (scroll down a bit).
From the Dr Sears website:
Artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame, saccharine) were originally developed as a sugar substitute for diabetics, but then the manufacturer discovered a huge market in a calorie-conscious society, one that has also been misfed a lot of hype about the hazardous effects of sugar. Artificial sweeteners do not usually satisfy a body that is craving sweets or carbohydrates. In fact, they may so accustom the taste buds to sweet flavors that sweetener-users want more sugar rather than less. (snip)
Also, some scientists are concerned about biochemical quirks of artificial sweeteners. The sweetener aspartame (Nutrasweet) is basically a combination of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Amino acids have different effects on the brain than sugars do. In natural foods these amino acids enter the brain in company with other naturally- occurring nutrients. The amino acids on their own may have an unnatural effect, particularly on neurotransmitters.
When we let the Federal Government start deciding which foods are healthy and which are not, where does it end? I’m all in favor of Americans making healthier choices, but when the government starts sticking their noses into the issue, I get concerned. Because what if their definition of what’s healthy is different from my definition? Or your definition?
Will butter be taxed in favor of margarine? Whole milk be taxed in favor of skim milk? Whole foods advocates know that natural foods are better than created foods, and that whole foods are better than parts of foods. But society in general believes that margarine and skim milk, being lower in fat, are the healthier choices. What if Congress started taxing real butter (or even real milk) and whole milk? Real yogurt, but not “lite” yogurt? I don’t think these questions are so far-fetched if Congress decides to take this recommendation seriously (which, note, they have not yet indicated their intentions to do so).
This is definitely an issue to keep an eye on for everyone in the Natural Living community. And, um, stop drinking pop. Even with real sugar, it’s not doing you any favors, health-wise.
*I’m studiously avoiding getting into details about High Fructose Corn Syrup here. No, I don’t believe it’s a good choice just because it was once corn.