Sunday, 27 Nov 2022

Europas fedmepolitik er lige så banal som USAs

Sundheds- og fødevarepolitikerne i Europa begår samme banale fejl som administrationen i USA. De danser efter industriens pibe i stedet for at gøre noget, der reelt kunne bremse fedmeepidemien. Sådan lyder det i en samling artikler af studerende fra Roosevelt Academy Middelburg. Hele publikationen kan hentes her – og indholdsfortegnelse og forord her.

I forordet, The policies of food and fat European style, skriver underviser og udgiver, Herman Lelieveldt om de tre væsentligste konklusioner fra arbejdet:

»The first is that many of the public interventions that are proposed and implemented focus on increasing physical exercise as a way to tackle the imbalance between caloric intake and expenditure. We are essentially looking at an infinite number of variations on the advice Brillat-Savarin’s gave almost two hundred years ago when he told the obese to ‘exercise on foot or on horseback’ (Brillat-Savarin 1970 [1825]: 217). But being more active came in as his last recommendation. ‘Discretion in eating’ was the first one, and for good reasons because research shows that it is much more effective to reduce caloric intake, than trying to burnoff extra calories. Governmental efforts on this side of the equation are however very modest and mostly limited to better informing consumers about healthy choices, a strategy that is embraced by the food industry. More invasive measures such as a fat-tax or the restriction of sales of certain foods are beyond imagination.

A second related observation pertains to the policy instruments that are being employed in the fight against obesity. Just as in the US, we also witness in Europe a very strong reliance on self-regulation as the preferred mode of policy making. There is a relentless effort of specific interests such as food producers and many other interested commercial parties (like advertisers) to make sure that they can stay in charge as long as possible when it comes to regulating their own behavior. In Europe such a self-regulatory climate fits the consensual nature of decision-making in which dialogue and good intentions are usually preferred to hard regulation.

A final observation relates to the vexing problem of attributing responsibility with regard to the problem of obesity and its consequences and allowing a helping hand from the government. By now the official reading in many policy documents, such as the EU White Paper, is that both the individual and society share the blame for this health crisis. But even if we would allow for biological differences which make some people more prone to becoming overweight, and for environmental factors that provide contexts in which it may be difficult not to gain weight, there are individual decisions and actions at the end of this chain of command. Whilst one would to some expect a willingness of people to accept a helping hand in helping to keep their weight under control, some of the case studies clearly show that citizens themselves want governments off their backs. Whilst many public institutions such as schools and health care facilities feel responsible to do something about the problem and are in fact willing to take drastic measures to achieve results, it turns out that citizens experience this as paternalism or an outright violation of their individual autonomy.

Disse observationer passer vældig godt med det billede, der tegner sig for denne blogger. Når ansvaret for fedmen placeres hos hiin enkelte er der selvfølgelig noget om det – men markedsføring og subsidier betyder, at fede og usunde produkter bliver lettere at få fat på, billigere og fremstår mere tillokkende.

Råd om at spise sundt, vælge kalorielette produkter og bevæge sig rigeligt preller af på rigtig mange mennesker: De kan være økonomisk pressede og fokusere på prisen per kJ, de kan være uinteresserede i eller forvirrede over de mange tilsyneladende modstridende sundhedsråd, osv. osv.

Industrien bidrager til at sætte ansvaret udelukkende på hiin enkelte, og støtter helhjertet op om værdiløse råd som mere motion og flere grøntsager, men der er ingen, der er interesserede i at begrænse produktionen. Der går en lige linie herfra og til debatten om industrielle interesser i produktionen af functional foods, som de kommer til udtryk i ILSI Europes formålsparagraf om at: »facilitates voluntary approaches rather than regulatory action«.

Måske burde man anskue sagen fra en helt anden hånd: Vi har i mange år levet i et system, der har understøttet produktionen af store mængder råvarer (EUs landbrugsstøtte, subsidierne til majs i USA osv). I stedet bør vi skabe et system, der støtter et demokratisk og bæredygtigt fødevaresystem på alle områder – også sundhedsområdet:

Individets frihed må aldrig sættes over styr. Når man taler om multinationale firmaer, er der jo ikke tale om individer med frihedsrettigheder – men om juridiske enheder, hvis primære interesse er shareholder interests, muligvis med en diskret eyeliner af corporate social responsibility

Der er tale om produktion og markedsføring af tonnager af junk i form af sukker og fedt, der forrykker markedet og slører overblikket for hiin enkelte forbruger og derved rent faktisk sætter individets frihed over styr.

Det kan man godt lovgive mod – uden at der bliver mangel på kager eller bøfsandwiches af den grund.

[Via Marion Nestle]

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