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August 16, 2007

Cancer Panel Blasts Government Food Policies

-- by Dave Johnson

About time and a big deal! The panel says we don't have the political will to protect the public health. The government lets tobacco and processed food companies off the hook for the harm they cause - because they make big profits - while persuing policies that make healthy foods more expensive.

Story one: U.S. panel calls for political will in dealing with tobacco, unhealthy foods, excerpts:

To aid the fight against cancer, the U.S. government should increase taxes on tobacco products and strictly regulate the sales and marketing of tobacco, says an advisory panel to the president.

Both recommendations, part of a report released Thursday, place the panel at odds with President George W. Bush.

... The panel said efforts to reduce cancer are often compromised by government policies that decrease the availability of healthy foods and limit physical education.

To reverse those trends, schools should reinstate physical education at meaningful levels from kindergarten through a student's last year in secondary school, the panel said, saying that schools should also replace unhealthy foods in cafeterias and vending machines.

... From January 2001 through August 2006, tobacco-affiliated political action committee contributions were accepted by 321 of the 533 politicians serving in Congress at this time last year, according to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington-based advocacy group. There were 93 Democrats and 228 Republicans.

Story two:Cancer panel attacks U.S. food subsidies. Excerpts from the story:

A new presidential report on cancer takes on not only tobacco companies but the food industry while calling on the federal government to "cease being a purveyor of unhealthy foods" and switch to policies that encourage Americans to eat vegetables and exercise.

... "Ineffective policies, in conjunction with limited regulation of sales and marketing in the food and beverage industry, have spawned a culture that struggles to make healthy choices -- a culture in dire need of change," said the report, available on the Internet at http://pcp.cancer.gov.

Margaret Kripke of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson cancer center, a member of the President's Cancer Panel, said in a telephone interview, "What became clear to me is that we simply don't have the political will to protect the public health."

Several reports have shown that a third of all cancers are caused by tobacco use, and another one-third by obesity and inactivity.

... The federal government also should "require the elimination of unhealthy foods from school breakfast and lunch programs" and "must cease being a purveyor of unhealthy foods that lead to disease and increased health care costs," the report said.

This includes regulation of food advertising and changing agricultural support policies, it said.

"We heavily subsidize the growth of foods (e.g., corn, soy) that in their processed forms (e.g., high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated corn and soybean oils, grain-fed cattle) are known contributors to obesity and associated chronic diseases, including cancer," the report reads.

Story three tells us where the problem really lies:Advisory Panel Calls for Tobacco Regulation, Higher Taxes, excerpt:

In addition, the House and Senate have each passed bills that would raise tobacco taxes to finance an expansion of children’s health insurance. The House bill (HR 3162) would raise the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes by 45 cents, to 84 cents, while the Senate’s version (HR 976) would raise the tax by 61 cents, to $1 per pack.

... While the Senate version of the children’s health insurance bill enjoys bipartisan support, the House version was opposed by nearly all Republicans in that chamber.

... Bush has threatened to veto both children’s health insurance bills, saying tobacco taxes are regressive and should not be raised to finance spending increases.

The government subsidizes foods that harm our health because the big corporations that profit from it run the show. The "deregulation" of industry - pushed by industry - has harmed all of us.

Posted by Dave Johnson at August 16, 2007 8:48 PM

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