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Should the Government Regulate What We Eat?

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Introduction

It is the government's mandate to regulate food and determine what is fit or unfit for human consumption. Through its scientists and regulatory bodies, one of its responsibilities is to ensure that citizens are healthy and are not exposed to unhealthy food substances that threaten its people. A healthy nation is a productive nation where the nationals provide the workforce for wealth creation. Good health reduces the government’s expenditure on medication. Therefore government regulation and high taxation on unhealthy foods are done or the benefit of the citizens. No government in the world can allow its people to consume harmful or unhealthy foods. Government regulation and taxation do not keep away unscrupulous businessmen from selling the food to the public. Such businessmen transfer the tax burden to the consumers. Another challenge occurs when such foods are prepared at home. For example, when the Danish government increased the tax on butter, milk, cheese, pizza, and meat as a measure to control obesity and heart diseases, it did not affect much of the population. The government provides directions which are understood by the people but the tax burden lasts for a while, and everything goes back to the norm. Some of these foods can be made at home, or if they are available in stores, hotels, and restaurants the burden will be present, but people will still buy them (Shaw, 2014, p. 139-140).

Taxes on sugary foods

Several governments have implemented an increased tax levy on sugary food products and drinks. Denmark has harsh policies on trans fats which include fines and imprisonment. In Denmark, it is illegal for food to contain more than 2.5% saturated fats. Other countries that have added tax to sugar products include Mexico, Hungary, and South Africa. Finland increased taxes on sweets In the United States; the state of Chicago taxes all vendors who sell bottled and canned beverages. The state of Massachusetts has an executive order that requires that all foods purchased or served must meet the nutritional guidelines by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Pomeranz, 2016, p.196). The Royal Society for Public Health advised the chancellor to increase taxes on sugary products in the UK. The serious health consequences of fatty foods and have drawn the attention of health institutions governments and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Freedom to choose

Governments have the authority to regulate what people eat but do not have the power of choice remains with each consumer. We voluntarily choose what we eat as long as we have the means to acquire it. The Danish are aware of the government’s health concerns, but they still have the freedom of choice. It is not stated in the laws that the overtaxed foods are illegal. This case of government regulation and taxation to prevent consumption of particular food substance relates to the use of cigarettes. Most people who smoke understand that cigarettes cause cancer, the health messages are also written on the packets, yet they go ahead to buy and smoke them. Therefore as long as these foods are available on the shelves, restaurants and can be made at home, they will still be consumed. The only way that a government can ensure that the people do not consume unhealthy foods is to make sure that they are banned. Making it a crime to be in possession of the ingredients used to make these foods is the only option that the government can use to control their use. However, this measure doesn’t seem viable and will be infringing on the civil liberties of its people. The government knows that by increasing taxes on these foods, the tax burden will be transferred to the consumers hence reducing the consumption of such foods. The assumption here is that only a few people can take the tax burden. The tax burden will also reduce the frequency with which such foods are consumed by making them a luxury. The second assumption is that those who can manage to acquire the overtaxed foods regularly have sufficient funds to cater for the health complications associated with the intake of these foods.

Knowledge of healthy foods

Knowledge of healthy foods is in the public domain. Despite the fact that this knowledge is available to the public, controversies between economists hinder progress. The consumers also receive a proper warning from the government and health professionals, but they continue to consume these foods. The healthcare point of view focuses on the low demand for these foods hence significantly reducing the calorie intake. This would eventually lead to a more health and reducing the levels of obesity and medical expenses caused by such foods. Therefore the government's move to regulate and criminalize the production of foods that are unhealthy greatly benefits the consumers. However, there are challenges since most businesses become unsustainable and end up closing due to the high taxes. In Denmark, consumers preferred buying the highly taxed products from Germany and Sweden. This weakened the businesses in Denmark and led to the cancellation of the fat tax in 2012. The poor and middle class benefit more from such taxes given that they would occasionally afford the money to buy them at the inflated prices. Therefore the health burden is transferred to the wealthy in society.

Conclusion

The concerns by the WHO and governments on sugary products and the rates of obesity should be everyone's concern. These measures should be embraced for healthy living. However, the economic challenges and the lack of adequate support from the citizens on enforcing these rules threaten the progress. Consequently, obesity and heart diseases will remain a problem today and in the future. Since governments are autonomous, it would be better if they determined what people eat because humans will only observe the directions from professionals for a while and return to the harmful health habits unknowingly. This can be seen in Denmark's case where the citizens went as far as buying the outlawed and overtaxed foods from Germany and Sweden. I support the view that the government has good intention by determining what we should eat.

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