Friday, December 2, 2011

Denmark is for the Danes. Canada is for the Corporations

This is the last in a series of articles about the obesity epidemic, the food industry, fat taxes and healthy living subsidies by guest poster Sharon Bala. Read the first article here, the second article here and the third article here.

Weight loss is simple (eat less, exercise more) but also difficult because laying in bed with a tub of ice cream is a lot easier than doing 50 push-ups. One solution to our country's obesity epidemic is also simple but our government is in bed with the food industry and doesn't seem to have the will power to get out. Does that mean government-implmented change is impossible? NO!

Let's look across the pond to Denmark, a country that has the right idea. For the past few years they've been implementing progressive legislation to wage a war on their collective waistlines. In 2004, they made it illegal for any food to have more than 2 per cent trans fats. In 2010, they slapped a tax on sugary junk food. Last month, they added a surcharge to foods with more than 2.3 per cent saturated fat. Predictably there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the food industry, but the Danish government (bless them) don't seem to care. Why? Maybe it's because 10 per cent of their population is obese and the Danish government has correctly deduced that this is a big (pardon the pun) problem. 

Denmark has a publicly-funded health care system. If I had to guess, I'd say that the government put two and two together and figured out that in the end, it's not FritoLay, ConAgra and Pepsico footing the hospital bill. Why hasn't someone in Ottawa done the math yet?

When it comes to weight, the Danes have nothing on us. The most recent numbers from Statistics Canada show that 1 in 4 adults in this country is obese. (And according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, our province is the fattest of them all.) We - not our thinner friends in Denmark - should be the trailblazers.

It's not too late. We can still lower the rates of sleep apnea, birth defects, infertility, incontinence and erectile dysfunction (Twinkies really should come with a Surgeon General's Warning, don't you think?). The anti-smoking movement did it. Mothers who lost their children to drunk drivers did it. We can change societal norms. And we can do it despite the deep pockets of the food industry.

First, we can spread the word. Speak loudly and often to our friends and our family. We have voices online and we can take the food industry directly to task. Hijack their Facebook walls. Barrage them on Twitter. Link to articles on our blogs. Tell our politicians how we feel. Make food an election issue. 

But it's not enough to kick up a fuss.

As consumers (pun intended) we have power. Money talks so use yours to cast a vote. We have the power to educate ourselves, to read labels more carefully, to choose fruits and vegetables and cook our own meals instead of going through the drive through or zapping a microwave dinner. We can bypass the junk food aisle. We can take charge of our health and our choices at the grocery store and the food court. And guess what? That is exactly what Big Food does not want us to do. So go do it.

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