The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sponsoring more food totalitarianism for the purpose of suitably herding the kiddies in their daily food round-ups in public schools. An Institute of Medicine committee — set up at the behest of congress — is proposing strict standards for all foods available in the government’s daily internment camps.
Ayn Rand or George Orwell couldn’t have fictionalized it any better. The Committee for Food Control, as we’ll call it, is proposing that food and beverages be individually categorized into defined "tiers." The committee will collectively determine what food and beverages belong in either Tier 1 or Tier 2. Each tier of food and beverage items will come with varying availability according to the time of day and/or the child’s grade level.
Tier 1 snacks contain no more than 200 calories per portion, and entrée items that could be sold la carte do not exceed calorie limits on comparable school lunch program items. Tier 1 items have no more than 200 milligrams of sodium per snack portion or 480 milligrams per à la carte entrée item. They contain no more than 35 percent of total calories from fat; less than 10 percent of total calories from saturated fats; no trans fats; and no caffeine except in naturally occurring trace amounts. They also contain no more than 35 percent of calories from total sugars; exceptions to this guideline are flavored milk, which may contain up to 22 grams of sugars per 8-ounce serving, and yogurt, which should not exceed 30 grams of sugars per 8-ounce portion.
Got that? This means that yogurt with the inexcusable "fruit-on-the-bottom" will likely exceed the sugar limit and thus be tossed into the "less healthy" Tier 2. In fact, we’re told that Tier 1 foods include stuff like carrot sticks, whole-grain, low-sugar cereals, whole fruit, skim or soy milk, and raisins. There would be a cap on juices because of their calorie-laden, sugary nature — 8 ounces for high school kids and 4 ounces for middle and elementary school students.
Tier 2 foods are the borderline sinful items — stuff like low-sodium whole-wheat crackers, caffeine-free diet soda, and seltzer water. These food items can only be made available after school hours and must conform to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Sports drinks, like Powerade or Gatorade, may only be ingested when the child has participated in "one or more hours of vigorous activity." That one ought to make for some great union jobs in providing for oversight and enforcement.
These standards will be applied to food and beverages sold on school grounds, including vending machines; à la carte cafeteria items; and "other foods and drinks that are available outside of — and therefore compete with — federally reimbursable school meals, which already must conform to some nutrition guidelines."
The criticism here is obvious. For starters, there is no room in a free society for lifestyle decrees of this nature — the government has overstepped its boundaries when it extends its coercive powers into the realm of the family and strives to regulate individual human eating habits. An unconstitutional action, yes. But even more so, it’s preposterous to think that any group of people can be empowered to determine what kind of nutritional substance (or lack thereof) you can or can’t put into your child’s body. This proposed esophageal terrorism on the part of big government — under the pretext of making us all healthier — is indeed invasive and controlling enough to justify the term "food totalitarianism."
In reality, in order to enjoy good health and clean eating individuals do not need to categorize all foods as strictly "bad" or "good." They need to balance the healthy foods with the less healthy and moderate their overall diet so that, in total, their bodies are receiving a net advantage of solid, nutritional foods. Self-moderation on the part of the individual eventually brings on more knowledge, better decision-making, and cleaner eating habits. Taking the road from being a sloppy eater who subsists on fast food, sweet stuff, and highly-processed foods toward a life of clean eating is typically not a forced sprint; it is a voluntary walk along the path of knowledge when one strives for personal betterment through enhanced nutritional habits.
Another critique — that complements the comments above — is the government’s "one-size-fits-all" proposal. The notion that what is good or bad for one person is necessarily the same for all others is collectivist in its foundation as well as scientifically unsound. Our bodies are so supremely individualistic that no group of us will achieve the same results from a given form of exercise or food program. As for children, there are many determining factors for diet type. A child’s natural body type, growth pattern, metabolism, and level of activity will determine what he should be eating and when he should eat it. A centrally-planned food program with calorie ceilings, rigorously-defined good and bad foods, and shared time management techniques is both physically and mentally unhealthy. Envision the negativity that children would experience when eating becomes forced and authoritarian, and falls under yet another set of harsh rulemaking.
Furthermore, there is no totalitarian decree that can effectively centralize the health and food diets of millions of children via random commands from one gigantic central planning commission — made up of establishment doctors, government agencies, health special interests, busybody citizens, and corporatist food interests — headquartered in Washington D.C. In effect, the establishment of twinkie control and calorie constraints is oppressive and inhumane, and surely, it works against the very foundations of freedom that we should savor and preserve.
True, bad eating habits will lead to grim consequences later in life, if not in the here-and-now. However, one’s body is one’s own to take care of or not. When an obese person — or any individual for that matter — makes the choice to consume a Big Mac or deep-fried, processed corn dogs as opposed to non-fat yogurt and broccoli, they are choosing food consumption as the way to immediate happiness instead of thinking long-term and putting off instant gratification for future health benefits. Done continuously, it’s a bad choice, but it is a choice. Poor choices like these are ripe for criticism and open to persuasion from onlookers, but they can never be taken away from individuals if we value self-ownership and the notion of negative liberty — the absence of physical interference with an individual’s person and property — as espoused by classical liberal philosophers.
Looking through the proposal, I guess there’s one thing for which we can be "grateful" concerning this latest episode of obesity scaremongering: "The standards apply only to competitive items sold or available on campuses, not to federal school meals or to bagged lunches or snacks that children bring to school."
Then again, before you consider this latest oppressive scheme for food control to be only a problem of food served in the public schools, consider the ramp-up in food totalitarianism that we have been witnessing all around us. One thing for certain is that government central planners are always predictable: given the opportunity, they will collectively assimilate all people everywhere into one big kettle and dole out equitable slices of compulsory recommendations that are backed up by the supremacy of law. This is so that we can all share in the same perceived benefits in the same equal amounts as identified by them — the chosen caretakers. Never mind that what may be beneficial to one man may be detrimental to another man.
Blessed be thy caretakers. They are spinning Orwell in his grave.