Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Do we need the government to tell us what to eat?

Whenever the government regulation argument is made there is the juxtaposition of big brother control versus freedom to choose.  For the most part this deliberation might be moot.

Whenever salmonella or E. coli gets into our commercially supplied food we the people become angst and demand government regulators do more to hold food manufacturers and suppliers to higher standards.  In this light we typically see big corporations being demonized by people, portrayed as only caring about profits and not about the safety of their customers.

Talk about reducing the gargantuan 1000, 1500 calorie plus meals, and limiting the mind boggling severe sodium levels of 1000 mg per serving though... well now those same corporations that were charged with greed and insensitivity are now public hero's serving up great tasting meals that the government has no business sticking their nose in.

We hope that the food handlers training and certification regulations provides some level of assurance that food is prepared under sanitary conditions and if it isn't, there better be a price to pay, and this will be tightly regulated.. to protect the health and safety of consumers. 

We have, and demand to have, tough government regulations in all manner of food products from listing when a food is expected to spoil (best before date), and that no products should be allowed to be on shelf after this date, to the temperature that fridges and freezers are at (to maintain food quality).

So in fact we already have regulations that serve to ensure a certain level of food safety and these regulations had to be put in place because there were enough problems occurring that we could not be assured that all businesses knew about and followed the same standards.. that is to say.. when business was left to self regulate there were enough that did't play fair that an even playing field had to be regulated.

Would anyone like to see the regulations concerning safe food handling be revoked? Should we have the right to choose to eat E. coli contaminated food?

"Fair point Cris.. but that's food safety.. regulating food taste is different."

It's an interesting counter point because fat, sugar, and salt are the main targets to be regulated, and it's these three ingredients that contribute a great deal to the flavour and ultimately the gratification that accompanies that flavour.

But what if that flavour reward is the result of an over stimulus our bodies were not designed to cope with?

What if chasing that gratification clouds our otherwise good judgment and in pursuit of those tasty morsels, we cause ourselves high blood pressure, high levels of circulating fats in our blood?

We now understand that high concentrations of fat, sugar, and salt cause an above normal heightened sense of pleasure from eating: pleasure centres in the brain are more active than with normal proportions of these ingredients.

High fat-high calories meals also alter hormones that regulate how full you feel and hungry you feel, making you feel more hungry and less full.

This results in experiencing the sensation of hunger when you're not actually physically hungry or exaggerates these feelings, and increases the amount of food you need to eat to feel full.

We can taste extra salt but we can't feel blood pressure rising.  We sense the immediate gratification from eating but don't necessarily make the connection that we're reducing our quality of life and indeed our life span.

I think it's interesting we'll demand government regulations for some things, yet proclaim the "nanny state" argument for government intervention in other things.

I've said it before.. in my opinion the best solution is that we the customers ask for healthier food choices from restaurants and food manufacturers.  Right now consumer demand helps drive the cycle of ever increasing portion sizes and keeps the eat lots = reward association going.

The ignition source for many government regulations though is the refusal or lack of recognition for the need of individuals or corporations to regulate themselves, and this may end up being the case for the genesis for regulating proportions of fat, salt, and sugar in foods we buy.  Obviously as a population we're not regulating ourselves all that well as obesity and overweight stats continue to climb,  and clearly if restaurants heavily promote "all you can eat" deals; we're not really doing much to reverse our obsession with overeating.

So many have told me that they can't stand the idea of big brother taking away their right to choose to be satisfied from a simple pleasure like eating cake.  I don't get this though, as the outcome of outlawing cake has never been part of any regulation proposal I've seen.. that's simply an extreme juxtaposition that's used to try to make things sound worse than they really are.

What may be regulated are extreme levels of fat, salt, and sugar in that cake..  We can still bake and sell great tasting cakes and such.. but the composition of those cakes should not exceed levels of ingrediants that are known to cause serious long term health problems.

We're in love with fat, sugar, and salt, and we hate the idea of this being taken away.


It's about  regulating risk of harm, not about eliminating cakes and burgers.

Health: OECD says governments must fight fat

Check this out.. a study from George Washington University shows obesity adds a few thousand dollars to annual living expenses.. being overweight adds a few hundred dollars..

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