A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Taxes Go Upby Carissa - July 17th, 2015
Or at least, that’s the recommendation being made Canada by the Heart and Stroke Foundation in a statement back in September. In addition, they want everyone to drop their sugar intake to just 10% of their daily calories – which is roughly about ten teaspoons of sugar. The World Health Organization takes it a step further by calling for a slash in consumption to just 5% of total caloric intake – or just 5 teaspoons. Before any of you start to question how in the world you would do that and still eat healthy – this relates only to the added sugars such as glucose, fructose, corn syrup, and honey – not to any naturally occurring sugar in fruits and vegetables.
All of this is in an attempt to curb obesity in an effort to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other related illnesses due to weight and a high sugar consumption diet.
It’s not a stretch to see why. On average, Canadians consume approximately 26 teaspoons of sugar daily – American’s 28 teaspoons. This translates to somewhere between 88 pounds and 96 pounds of sugar per year consecutively. Teenage boys across both countries are even further at risk, consuming one and a half times more – mostly from sugary soda drinks. Their consumption can be as high as 138 pounds per year!
So in Canada, when the World Health Organization came out with their recommendations, the Heart and Stroke Foundation stepped it up a notch by offering some unpopular recommendations.
The Controversial Recommendations
• Tax sugar-sweetened beverages
• Pass new zoning laws to stop fast food establishments from building within walking distance from schools
• Ban fundraising by selling junk foods
The recommended tax of five cents per 100 mL on sugary drinks is thought to raise approximately $1.8 billion (yes, with a B!) per year in revenue – which the HSF says could be used to subsidize fruits and vegetables.
Whether you love the idea or hate it, these recommendations have their… uh… heart in the right place. Truthfully, the obesity epidemic is reaching massive proportions – no pun intended. The crazy fact is much of the sugar intake Canadians and particularly us Americans consume is hidden in foods you’d never even suspect. To top it off, obesogenic sugars are laden in many American foods, in an attempt to add that “perfect sweet" taste. The main culprit seems to be High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – which is in everything from soda, to ketchup, to even bread! What makes this sugary substitute so dastardly isn’t only the fact that it’s hidden in everything these days – but the fact that unlike ordinary table sugar, consuming large doses of HFCS does nothing to curb your hunger (unlike sugar). In fact, it actually has the opposite effect, making you feel like you are never satiated enough. There are also various studies showing that calorie for calorie, HFCS contributes to weight gain more than regular table sugar. Of course, this isn’t an all out thumbs up to eat as much table sugar as you can, but merely a reason to pay attention to the types of sugar as well as the amount you consume daily. If you see HFCS on your label, it’s best to avoid it and grab an alternative.
Personally, I think the recommendations are probably wise ones. We can’t change the problem using the same thinking that got us in this obesity-sugar-crazy predicament. We have to think outside the box to dig our way out. If the food industry wants to add insane amounts of unhealthy sugars to everything, perhaps this will at least be the catalyst to get people paying attention to their sugar consumptions and bring a better call to action. If we don’t like the idea of taxation, write to your favorite food companies and tell them why they need to stop using sugar, HFCS, etc. or you will stop buying from them. Nothing will change unless we do.
When I was a child, I always thought the idea of having a McDonald’s across the street from a school was a bit ridiculous, anyway. Especially high schools, since here, they’re the kids with money and the privilege to leave for lunch breaks. When I was in high school, we had a sub shop across the street and a convenience store. While not necessarily the worst choices, you know more kids went to the gas station to get soda, candy bars, etc. than those who went to get anything resembling a veggie on a sandwich. As a mother, while I hope I’m raising my children to be food savvy, the temptation and peer pressure is enough to break any well-intentioned person, kids or not!
The same follows suit for the vending machines full of junk. I get needing to fundraise – but there are many other ways to do so which don’t require cramming more sugar into little bodies (or your own!). Again, the old ways of thinking just aren’t going to work anymore. We have to get out of these old modalities and start thinking creatively. Maybe that means setting new rules. Or maybe it means taking the recommendations and conjuring up our own.
Either way, change is never easy – at least until we recognize the necessity and bring consciousness to the problem. Sometimes that comes in the form of a catalyst just like this one.
Tell us, what are your thoughts about this controversial recommendation? Do you support the idea of taxation for high sugar drinks? Or are you against? What about the other recommendations? Leave us a comment with your thoughts.
Carissa Andrews is an passionate author and freelancer from Minnesotan with a focus in creative writing.
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