The Politics of Fat: Food and Nutrition Policy in America

The Politics of Fat: Food and Nutrition Policy in America

The Politics of Fat: Food and Nutrition Policy in America

The Politics of Fat: Food and Nutrition Policy in America


Politics pervades every link in the food chain from the farm to the fork. It influences what foods we eat, how much they cost, what we know about them, and how safe they are. This book brings the point home by focusing on the vexing issue of dietary fat content -- known to be a health menace but also an ingredient in many or most of our best-loved foods. Through this prism. Dr. Sims explores the politics of food assistance programs (with a case study of the National School Lunch program); agricultural policy (for example, the price premium paid to farmers for milk with high butterfat content); food content (with case studies of food labeling and the approval process for fat substitutes); and dietary change (with a case study of nutrition education programs). The book concludes with consideration of the costs and benefits of government intervention and nonintervention in food policy from the supply side to the demand side and its consequences for human health (and happiness).


If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.

—Widely attributed to Otto von Bismarck

Policy—the very word conjures up images of government, marble-columned buildings, stuffy politicians, smoke-filled rooms. While such may be the substance of mental caricatures, policy is actually all about people! Policy is made by people for people. The derivation of the Greek word, polis, conveys the notion of a person as citizen. Policy—in some form or another—affects each of us in our everyday lives, touching us in the most unexpected moment or the most mundane of circumstances. Who among us hasn't experienced the vagaries of a check-cashing "policy," a merchandise return "policy," or, for the university reader, a course drop-and-add "policy"?

While the more general term policy can be applied to any set of rules for activity, public policy is the term used when the government is involved. Public policy is what government does, the action that a government takes (or does not take) to respond to a problem. A public policy may also be called a law, a rule, a statute, an edict, a regulation, an order. The policy may be very specific, as in a law that might make it illegal for stores to sell cigarettes to minors, or it can be stated in rather broad and general terms, as in the myriad regulations that govern interstate commerce. However, if it is determined that a problem is outside the scope of governmental control or is not resolvable by intervention, a public policy can certainly involve a decision to do nothing.

Public policy is composed of two elements, the first of which is an officially stated intention or goal to address the problem. The second element states the means that government proposes to use to achieve those goals; these techniques can take the form of rules, procedures, or sanctions, which use either reward or punishment techniques. There may be many . . .

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