Junking Junk Food-A A +A
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
THESE days my choice of food is limited owing to health concerns and a growing tummy paunch. Everything is now in eaten in moderation at the very least and cheat days are only weekends. As an urban dweller, my food lifestyle greatly affects my health. Although I grow some fruits and herbs in my garden but it is not enough to supply my everyday needs therefore I have to depend on the market and grocery stores to supply my food… but is the available food safe and healthy as well as affordable? That new high-end grocery store now allows us access to western food but it also allows us more unhealthy food options.
Davao City has won several awards on healthy lifestyle with its programs on anti-smoking, liquor bans, as well as other health related programs.
But we still see the ever increasing incidence of diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. Check the annual expenditures that the city does in the provision of medicines on these diseases and you will be surprised. Rather than give free medicines why don’t we embark on a comprehensive and long range program to address these diseases rather than do small-scale and often invisible information campaigns?
Can we design programs incorporates healthy lifestyle for its citizens? I say YES. The question is -- are the people willing to change to a healthy lifestyle….
Hypertension and diabetes are always referred to as lifestyle diseases. Barring genetics, these, more than often, occur when people eat too much of something -- salt for hypertension and sugar for diabetes and at the same time lead a sedentary life. Most of people in the urban areas especially students are so fond of eating anything instant -- canned goods, instant noodles, instant coffee etc. (Maybe they think this is part of city living or being modern?) These are food items that often pack a lot of sodium and sugar just to make their products tasty.
Do you regularly check the nutritional info of the food that you buy? Eating instant noodles? Eating one pack may already exceed your daily sodium requirements and same with canned goods as well as processed food like bacon and corned beef. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations recommends only 5 grams of sodium per person per day. Feeling thirsty? Drink a regular sized soda and you have just swallowed 10 teaspoons of sugar! The American Heart Association recommends about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar per day for male adults and much less for women and children.
These food products actually increase the risks of people to acquire cardiovascular diseases and diabetes but are we doing something about it? If we can regulate smoking and alcohol because they are detrimental to public health then why can’t we regulate unhealthy food that increases risks of CVD and diabetes? I am not saying that we ban the sale of these items but we should at least make these more expensive to buy so that people will switch to more healthy food. We will also recover that cost of health care that the local government spends just to take care of its citizens who are afflicted by diseases that these foods are contributing to.
How will it go? For starters, we can start taxing soft drinks that are being sold locally. We can also tax junk food for their sodium content. If the product has an x amount of sodium or sugar per y grams and the amount within the container exceeds the number of daily requirements of sodium or sugar per person then they have to be taxed to contribute to the local health care system. This proposal needs to be refined further based on the local nutritional requirements as well as the tax rates to make it work. This is not a unique proposal since this has been proposed in other countries like US and Norway. It was New York that recently implemented a tax on soda.
Where will the tax collection go? These will be used to procure more healthy food for school children. Have you noticed that the junk food advertisements are always targeting children? They know that parents always will have a soft heart for their kids and so they cannot resist the children’s pleas to buy junk food. We could use the funds to have more feeding programs for school children -- no lugaw please… let us introduce healthy foods like kamote, bananas, vegetables and beans.
Funds can also be used to a more effective information campaign for our people, we can set up posters, billboards and even radio and TV ads to advocate for people to eat more fresh food like fruits and vegetables and to avoid excessive consumption of salty and sugary foods and drinks. This will also stimulate the rural economy if people buy fresh food rather than canned or processed food.
We can also use the funds to create urban gardens so that the urban poor will have access to cheaper vegetables and fruits. Despite my proddings before, our city agriculturist’s office did not push thru with its urban gardens in our resettlement areas. I do not know the reasons but we have enough LGU owned vacant lands that can be quickly converted into vegetable gardens for food supplement of our resettlement sites. If conditions are right, the vegetable gardens can start producing essential food for our people in just three months. That will result in less health problems in our resettlement sites.
Incidents of stroke, heart attacks, diabetes can be reduced if proper lifestyle changes are introduced -- healthy food and exercise. By taxing unhealthy food we discourage people from buying too much of these as well as raise funds for the caring of people already afflicted by these diseases.
Filipinos are among the best foodies in the world. Our culture is really based on food. But as our food culture is being westernized we encounter health issues like -- obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. The west plagued with these diseases is now looking at the old world and asian diet as healthy diets. It is time to go back to our own culture -- more vegetables, fruits, and natural food.
ERRATUM: The title of Mr. Alabado’s column last week should have been “Don’t increase parking wraiths” instead of “Don’t increase parking rates” to refer to the missing parking attendants. – The editor
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 24, 2013.