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Monday, May 24, 2010

The Fight Over Taxing Junk Food

Now that the connection between obesity and rising health care costs is impossible to deny, I'm hearing more and more talk about taxing junk food. It's actually more than just talk -- Salon.com reports that a number of state governments are already moving to tax sweets.

Washington state will begin applying sales tax to candy on June 1st. As the Salon article points out, they have a particularly strange way of distinguishing "candy" from "food." According to the law, anything that contains flour is food. That includes Nestle Crunch (a personal favorite), licorice (a personal anti-favorite), and a host of other goodies that I'm sure you think of as candy.

Samira Kawash, a historian who studies the history of candy, suggests that we tend to think of baked goods as naturally wholesome. (Maybe we're envisioning June Cleaver, dressed in high heels, churning out batches of homemade cookies.)

The moral of the story is the importance of health education. In her latest blog post, Juliet says that people grossly underestimate the number of calories in the foods they eat. The antidote to this kind of misunderstanding is health education -- onsite seminars with health professionals, online resources, and more.

Emily just finished an "Eat This, Not That" seminar where participants were asked to choose the healthier of two food options. It was great fun, and everyone learned a lot. Some of the questions were tricky -- even for us!

So what are some of your favorite foods that blur the line between candy and food?

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