Food News

Food Taxes Alone Won't Keep Us From Becoming Fat Asses

Between double brunches I thumbed through the Sunday papers, hunting for relevant food news so you don't have to. Most papers are slathered with stories about the heat, but there were a few food gems ...

The Morning News re-printed a Chicago Tribune story that continues an ongoing dialogue about obesity in America and how taxes could help us get a handle on those love handles. Unlike Mark Bittman's op-ed, which ran two Sundays ago, Monica Eng's lends a stronger voice to conservative politicians, quoting Sarah Palin and other right-wingers who want to keep the government out of our food choices.

Eng's story echos Bittman's, citing the cigarette tax's impact on smoking. I'm not so sure taxes alone would have the same impact on our over-indulgence of fattening foods. For one thing, state governments didn't just tax cigarettes; they attacked them in an aggressive campaign. Smoking was outlawed in places of work and, unthinkably, in restaurants and bars. Soon, even the front door wasn't a distant enough exile for those nasty smokers. Proximity rules pushed those in need of nicotine down the street and around the corner.

These clean air rules made it harder to smoke. Meanwhile, taxes squeezed smokers' wallets. It was a one-two punch that led some to quit altogether.

Will we eventually be asked to indulge that burger outside, or in the privacy of our own homes? It all makes me wonder how Americans would respond to more aggressive government controls that govern how and what we eat.

Elsewhere, two stories in The New York Times covered fast food chains. The magazine profiles Danny Meyer and his growing Shake Shack empire. Will we ever get a Shake Shack location in Dallas? Here's hoping. They're very good.

And the business section profiles Pret A Manger, an English company that's pushing simple, wholesome fast food to an increasing customer base in America. The article makes the culture inside the chain seem almost cultish.

Finally, a story that shouldn't be funny but somehow is. Pecks of Pilfered Peppers in New York Gardens tells the tale of community garners and their battle with with increasingly brazen thieves. Turns out the most common perps are little old ladies who can't control their cravings for homegrown tomatoes.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz