Whythe government should not regulate unhealthy foods, but facilitate afree-market.
Therelationship between the consumption of unhealthy foods and theincrease in the prevalence of diseases (such as obesity) has been ahot debate for several years. The role of the government in ensuringthat its citizens consume healthy foods is one of the key areas ofargument. One camp holds that the government should imposeregulations to limit the availability of unhealthy foods in themarket while the other group argues that the concept of thefree-market should be allowed to operate in the food industry. Thesearguments are documented in the article “Food policy debates”that was authored by Robert Kiener and published by CQ Press in 2014.Kiener addressed different trends in the food industry, with the mainfocus on the growth as well as the decline in the fast food sector.The author observed that the fast food sector is in its decliningphase. This is confirmed by a decrease in the number of Americanseating in the fast food restaurants on a daily basis. The problem ofunhealthy eating habits has been caused by the lack of information onthe part of the consumers, but it is being addressed by nutritionconsultants and initiatives taken by players in the food industry.
Thestakeholders (including the health care professionals, consumers,food companies, and fast food restaurants) agree that the consumptionof fast foods leads to adverse health effects. However, the mainsource of argument is the most viable solution that can be used toaddress the issue of unhealthy eating habits. There are two majorsolutions that have been suggested by these stakeholders. The firstsolution is the government regulation, which should be implemented byincreasing taxes on unhealthy foods, mandatory requirements to labelgenetically modified foods, and providing guidelines to control theschool feeding programs (Kiener 819). The second solution is to givetraders in the food industry an opportunity to self-regulate andfocus on providing their customers with healthy foods. The secondsolution is based on the concept of the free-market, where thegovernment is expected to minimize its interference and allow ownersof food enterprises to demonstrate the aspect of responsibility(Kiener 824). The two alternatives can be viable, but the free-marketoption has long-term benefits.
Thetwo solutions (including government regulation and the free-marketapproach) have been tested and their effectiveness documented.Government intervention (such as an increase in oversight and theissue of guidelines) has been shown to be less effective due toenforcement issues. For example, the guidelines issued by thegovernment to ensure that the school lunch programs meet the requiredstandards were only effective in the short-run (Kiener 819).Limitations in terms of enforcement have been confirmed by theability of trade groups in the food industry to water down thegovernment measures. These trade groups have managed to increase thesale of sugary drinks and Trans-fat foods by bypassing the existingschool guidelines (Kiener 819). In addition, attempts to regulate thelevel of sugar content in soft drinks have been frustrated by thejudicial system. For an instant, the Supreme Court of New York ruledthat the city board did not have the authority to prohibit the saleof drinks with a sugar content of more than 16 ounces (Kiener 821).This indicates that the legal system does not support the idea ofimposing regulations.
Thesecond strategy, which is the establishment of a food industry thatis guided by the principle of free-market, has proven to yield somefruits. The concept of free-market requires players in the industryto adopt the best practices without being pressured by externalforces, such as the government. For an instant, producers of soda inthe U.S. have already established guidelines that will ensure thatall players in the industry reduce the amount of calories in softdrinks that are sold to schools and vending machines (Kiener 834). Aninitiative taken by participants in the soft drink processingbusiness will be more effective than the government regulations sincetraders will check on the level of compliance by each of thecompanies. Other players (such as nutritional advisers) are invitedto provide civic education on eating habits in order to empowerconsumers and ensure that they are able to select healthy foods. Kiener stated, “Americans are following the nutritionists’ adviceand eating more turkey and chicken while cutting on red meat” (p.820). This suggests that consumers do not require government lawsand guidelines to dictate to them the type of food that they shouldeat. Consumers need information about different types of food and howthey affect their health in order to help them make the rightchoices.
Ethicsis another aspect that guides players in a given industry without thegovernment’s interference. Under the deontological theory, foodprocessors and operators of the fast food restaurants have a duty toensure that the products offered to their clients are healthy. In thepast, fast food restaurants that target schools as their main marketcheat on children about the nutritional content of the fast foodsthat they offer. RADiUS stated, “Kids are being told the biggestlie that they will ever hear in their lives” (p. 1). This indicatesthat the use of laws to control the content as well as the quality offoods that children take is ineffective since children will alwaysmeet with scrupulous traders in the absence of adults who can guidethem. Therefore, allowing traders to observe ethics and self-regulatetheir business is a viable solution.
Oneof the key counter arguments raised by the opponents of the idea offree-market is that there are many small scale processors and vendorsof fast foods. This could make it difficult to determine whether eachof them is complying with the guidelines set by the industry as atool for self-regulation. However, this argument may not hold becauseconsumers are continually accessing information that helps themselect healthy foods. For example, Kiener stated, “the percentageof Americans regularly eating in fast-food restaurants has declinedover the past decade, while the percentages eating fast food once ora few times a year have risen” (p. 820). This implies that traderswill be forced by emerging trends (such as the increase in customer’sknowledge about healthy eating) to implement initiatives set by otherinvestors or face the risk of losing customers.
Theavailability of unhealthy foods has been a controversial issue forseveral years, but the role played by nutrition advisers and tradershave increased the adoption of healthy eating habits among Americans.The government can control the availability of these foods throughsupervision, issuance of guidelines, and taxes, but enforcement ofthese measures is quite a challenge. The most viable solution is theadoption of the concept of free-market, where traders in the foodsector are expected to self-regulate by taking initiatives andobserving ethical standards in their practices.
Kiener,R. “Food policy debates”. CQResearcher24.35 (2014): 817-840. Print.
RADiUS.Fed up: official trailer. YouTube.9 April. 2014. Web. 9 July 2016.