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Should The Government Stay Out Of Your Kitchen?

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Talking Shop: J. Justin Wilson, senior research analyst at the non-profit Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, believes government regulations should not try to influence consumer choice, or the ingredients in products provided by food companies.

He is a frequent writer of newspaper op-ed articles and letters on the subject, and an occasional television pundit. As nutritionists push for a tax on junk food and soda, Wilson tells Pay Dirt that the government should not penalize the choices we make – even the unhealthy ones.

Pay Dirt: Although the organization is called the Center for Consumer Freedom, it represents interests in the food and drink industry.

It was called the Guest Choice Network many, many moons ago. We are like a chamber of commerce for food issues. I don’t like to hide the ball. Part of our funding certainly comes from the food industry.

Is this a culture war between corporations and big government, or a commercial one?

There’s certainly an enormous culture war that’s going on. I don’t think it’s someone decision to tell us what we put in our bodies. There is a social contract between the people and the government to protect us and provide security. The government’s role is appropriate where there no choice, like with e-coli bacteria. There is no consumer in this country who says I want unwashed lettuce. There is a difference between protecting us from ourselves, and protecting us from the unknown like a pathogen that has injected itself into the food system.

Some nutritionists would argue that fast-food is a kind of pathogen.

People like options. There are a lot of people who don’t like eating in chain restaurants.

Food companies could add less salt, more spices.

Food technologists are always focused on how to make their products taste good and healthier.

Sugar and salt are addictive, and nutritionists argue that food that food manufacturers put excessive amounts in their products.

We’re all addicted to food. It’s called hunger. It’s not an addiction like crack or heroin by any stretch. There are hundreds of millions of Americans who can break that addiction.  To frame it as such a defeatist mentality takes the role of personal responsibility out of it.

What about corporate responsibility?

The same people who say the government should stay out of our bedrooms say the government should be in our kitchens. Why is it that this one part of our personal lives that seems to be regulated?

Some people are more vulnerable than others. Not all are as well-informed or educated about healthy diets for them or for their children. Public education programs are important, but shouldn’t food companies play a part too?

It’s like we move to padded sidewalks with cars that have bumpers that are twice as large. Why is it that with obesity that the obese get thrown under the bus? The people who want to regulate fat people are not fat. For instance, I get enormously frustrated when I hear that people say you should tax soda. It’s an elitist mentality. This is about revenue. Very rarely do such taxes actually combat the sin.

Pay Dirt readers, do you agree?

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    • morganovich,I agree the bankruptcy was ueepecndrnted and politics played a huge role. Our country is designed for politics to have a much larger role than is probably good for us as individuals. I don’t see that changing in my lifetime, so my choice seems to be to leave the U.S. or stay here and deal with the system we have. I think I will stay here and figure out how to play the game. I think people are underestimating the impact a liquidation of GM would have caused. Unless we ignore the brilliant minds running Ford, Ford would have been lost, too. Additionally, the “do nothing” alternative was estimated at three times the cost of what they decided to do. I don’t think there was a will to take the short-term pain for what might have been a long-term gain. A lot of people lost money, but I hope no one ignored the first rule of investing: diversification. Following that rule would have held their losses to less than 5% of their portfolios, and the courts decided, rightly or wrongly, they could absorb the small loss much better than the workers could absorb a bigger loss. I did not follow that rule and lost a lot of money from owning GM stock in addition to around $15,000 in compensation a year from the adjusted contract.As a GM retiree exactly 30 days from now, I hope GM and the UAW can get it right this time!

    • Nothing Mr. Wilsion said had even a hint of sincerity.

      No need to watch any exposees on the “Center for Consumer Freedom” to smell what comes out of his mouth.

      Insidious people.

    • They also attack the Humane Society! I think they’re paid by factory farmers to do that. WTF.

    • UGH. I saw that David Martosko site. That dude is Justin Wilson’s boss. Smart Money should do an expose on CCF…not an interview with them!

    • The Center for Consumer Freedom? Justin Wilson? I thought SmartMoney was…well…smarter than that. CCF has been exposed (by ABC, 60 Minutes and others) as a front group for varied corporate interests. They, for example, take money from the alcohol industry and then attack Mothers Against Drunk Driving. (Which they have a convicted drunk driver doing: see http://www.AboutDavidMartosko.com) They take money from tobacco and then attack the Centers for Disease Control. The list goes on and on.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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