Beware the Food Police and Their Soda Tax

It starts with a soda tax. Where does it end?

By + More

By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

In his 2001 book A Cook's Tour, chef/television host Anthony Bourdain describes a war in the United Kingdom:

It's war. A fight for the hearts, minds, and souls of future generations. If the dark forces win? They'll be looking across the Atlantic; don't doubt that for a second. They already have their operatives in place. They'll be looking at your plate, inspecting your refrigerator. They already are. They want to take your meat away.

They even want your cheese.

But the same struggle is already being waged here in the States, too—in our legislatures, our restaurants and our kitchens.

A tax on sodas is "an idea worth exploring," President Barack Obama said earlier this month, the thought being that if you are taxed every time you pop open a Dr. Pepper, you'll buy and consume less Dr. Pepper, especially if you're an elementary student at lunch.

President Obama is not alone. Thomas Frieden, Obama's director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also supports a soda tax.

The fight is not limited to someone's Diet Coke habit. It's an effort to control what you eat, how it's made, and how much of it you can have. And it's been taking place, throughout the nation, for years. A few examples:

  • In 2006, the use of trans-fat in New York City restaurants was made unlawful, an effort spearheaded by Frieden, then New York City health commissioner.
    • That same year, the city of Chicago banned foie gras, leading foie gras consumption underground to "Duckeasies," similar to the "Speakeasies" of the Al Capone days. (Chicago later repealed the ban, a rare display of government sanity.)
      • California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill banning all foie gras production in the state by 2012.
        • In 1992, New Jersey, a state where the deep fried hot dog at Rutt's Hut, "The Ripper," is legendary, banned runny eggs in restaurants.
          • North Carolina has banned restaurants from serving hamburgers medium-rare, despite the patrons' wishes.
          • The hamburger has become a new cause celebre for the food police eager to exploit food safety fears. While it had been on the health police's radar for years, In-n-Out Burger lovers were blissfully unaware. That is until Monday's "Larry King Live," where, in a program titled "Should Americans ban the burger?" panelists tripped over each other in an effort to denounce the hamburger and appear as the most anti-meat.

            Healthy foods are a target, as well. According to last week's report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest—who led the charge to end the use of coconut oil for popcorn at movie theatres—E. coli, Norovirus and Salmonella lurk in foods parents have been trying to get children to eat for eternity; Eggs, tuna, potatoes, cheese, tomatoes and, most dangerous of all, leafy greens like Popeye's favorite, spinach.

            To battle these diseases in otherwise healthy food, the center and do-gooders everywhere recommend, you guessed it, more government regulation. The kind that raises the cost of a nice salad and makes that bucket of chicken from KFC look more and more affordable.

            We've known for years a lot of these foods are not healthy. Common sense tells us that glazed doughnuts and Fritos are not as healthy as, say, wheat germ and organic pomegranate juice. And some super-sized products are so clearly unhealthy they're practically pornographic.

            But the answer is not the banning of products, additional regulation, and higher taxes liberals see as the solution to all of life's problems. The answer is in parents providing healthy alternatives for their children, teaching them about food and where it comes from, and for teenagers and adults to step away from the 64-ounce Big Gulp every once in awhile.

            And while the vegetables coming from the White House garden will likely not be eaten due to high levels of toxic materials, first lady Michelle Obama has set an admirable example, especially for schools.

            "People don't necessarily want Big Brother telling them what to eat or drink, and I understand that," President Obama said, leaving the door open to a soda tax. (Note the use of the word "necessarily." When a Democrat doesn't close the door on a new tax, they've left it wide open.)

            Obama's Big Brother analogy is in the right direction, but given the zealotry with which the food police seek to control everything you eat we could someday end up echoing Charlton Heston's chilling warning, "Soylent Green is people!"

            • Check out our political cartoons.
            • Become a political insider: Subscribe to U.S. News Weekly, our digital magazine.
            • Follow the Thomas Jefferson Street blog on Twitter.