A Carrot Approach To Lowering Obesity

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Hank Cardello is critical of anti-obesity strategies that target demand - namely the soda tax - and instead wants to curb supply:

One initiative I am advancing is the "20 by '20" program, designed to reduce the supply of calories 20 percent by the year 2020. It would offer all packaged food marketers and restaurant chains a straightforward quid pro quo: keep your tax deductions for advertising in exchange for lowering the number of calories per serving you sell. Specifically, food manufacturers and restaurant chains must lower their calories sold by 2 percent each year for 10 years in order to retain their deductions for advertising. [...]

From a corporate perspective, having the flexibility to determine which products to change or promote offers a huge advantage over a government imposed one-size-fits-all tax mandate. And progress would be easily tracked, since every company knows how much of each individual product it sells and the calorie content (one of the side benefits of those bar codes on the label). This approach bridges the divide between the altruistic motives of those trying to improve the public's well-being and the profit motive intrinsic to corporate success.

Ambinder is open to the idea:

Cardello's industry-centric approach recognizes the role that industry is playing in the crisis itself, which is a step in the right direction. When it comes to making food better, the question is how we train people's brains to respond to a set amount of calories as if it were a greater amount of calories. We become addicted to a certain level of energy; the push and pull of homeostasis make it extremely difficult to voluntarily reduce consumption.  So I wonder whether reducing the supply of food will matter in a country that already produces excess food and distributes it inefficiently.

Ambers also flags a stick approach adopted in Santa Clara County, California: banning toys from fast food meals.

(Sculpture by Franceso de Molfetta)