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Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance
(USDA, 2003b), more than 40 percent of which came from high fructose corn syrup (Bray et al., 2004). The possible relationships among agricultural policies (such as corn subsidies and the production and use of high fructose corn syrup in the U.S. food supply), the obesity epidemic (Bray et al., 2004), and the marked increase in type 2 diabetes (Gross et al., 2004; Schulze et al., 2004) warrant further investigation.
An independent assessment should be conducted of U.S. agriculturalpolicies, including agricultural subsidies and commodity programs, thatmay affect the types and quantities of foods available to children throughthe federal food assistance programs. Further, other efforts (such as check-off programs) that have involved federal legislation should be examined to ensure that they work to promote a healthful dietary intake among children. Policies and programs should be revised as necessary to promote a U.S. food system that supports energy balance at a healthy weight.
OTHER POLICY CONSIDERATIONS
The imposition of taxes on certain foods or beverages, particularly high-calorie food items or those with low nutrient density, has been discussed with regard to the obesity epidemic. Several states including Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, currently impose excise taxes on soft drinks. Although the tax rates have been found to be too small to affect sales, in certain jurisdictions the revenues generated are substantial but generally have not been used to fund obesity prevention activities (Jacobson and Brownell, 2000). It is not known whether imposing a sales tax on designated foods such as soft drinks would have a significant effect on beverage sales (Jacobson and Brownell, 2000). Moreover, there is the difficulty of determining which foods would be taxable—for example, how to define soft drink and snack foods (Jacobson and Brownell, 2000). Taxation and pricing strategies have been found to contribute to tobacco prevention and control efforts (Levy et al., 2004). Pricing policies for food are much more complex than tobacco and there is limited evidence about the price elasticity of high-energy-dense foods (Yach et al., 2003). It is notable that other countries, such as Norway, have effectively used agricultural policies such as consumer and producer subsidies to encourage the consumption of healthful foods (Milio, 1998).
The committee has carefully considered the issues regarding taxes on specific foods, particularly soft drinks and energy-dense snack foods, but at this time, it is the committee’s judgment that there is not sufficient evidence to make a strong recommendation either for or against taxing these foods. More research is needed to determine objective methods for defining and characterizing foods based on nutritional considerations such as the quality and quantity of nutrients or the energy density. Additionally, because low-