Magazine article U.S. Catholic

You Want Fries with That? Fast Food Has Meant a Slow Death for Thousands. Why Aren't We Doing More about It?

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

You Want Fries with That? Fast Food Has Meant a Slow Death for Thousands. Why Aren't We Doing More about It?

Article excerpt

IF YOU KNEW OF AN OBVIOUS PUBLIC SAFETY HAZARD THAT contributed to the deaths of 300,000 Americans every year--people often left to die a slow, painful, even gruesome death from heart disease and diabetes--wouldn't you expect your government to do something about it?

In 2003 the U.S. surgeon general reported that two out of three Americans were overweight and that one out of eight deaths was caused by an illness related to obesity. That's the personal cost of our obesity and diabetes epidemic, a fast- and processed-food, cattle-prodded death march through the nation's poor eating and exercising habits.

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Now driving the fast-food addictees among us farther along the road to nutritional perdition is the latest craze among purveyors of fast-food crack: the one-third pound, Angus-beef calorie bomb. Our bellies will be bulging as our local A health budgets are imploding.

Forty years ago, just about 4 percent of U.S. children were overweight. That rate has tripled to more than 15 percent, but as serving sizes increase yet again, government health offices issue warnings but little else. We're endangering a new generation of kids raised on addictive, so-called food.

As the dying and diabetes reach epidemic proportions, there is scant evidence that anyone in authority is seriously considering regulatory mechanisms aimed at curtailing this massive public health crisis even as it enriches a few food and agricultural conglomerates. U.S. consumers are being reduced to surplus-clearing mechanisms for U.S. commodity markets.

Why should what you put in your mouth be my business? Foremost, personal choice leads to communal cost: All taxpayers and insurance plan members pick up the tab for the vast social expenses related to obesity. But there is also growing evidence that fast-food users really can't help themselves. Like any other addiction that has invited government regulation--drugs, alcohol, tobacco--fast-food junkies need their fat and corn-syrup fix and won't stop unless someone stops them.

The government already directs food policy through a number of regulatory and market mechanisms, most notably the farm subsidy program, and a government say on a liberty as personal as the food we eat is not without precedent. …

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