Domestic / Federal

Food Freedom

An argument for radical change to Australia’s food laws.

It’s very difficult to approach a subject of public knowledge such as this without sounding trite, patronising or outright offensive, so perhaps it’s best to be blunt and get to the point. The Australian population is getting fatter. The average Australian person is increasing their weight as a result of food consumption, as well as their risk of developing related health complications.

The average Australian is not only eating more, but more food of a certain category. Foods with higher fat, salt and sugar contents constitute greater and greater proportions of Australian’s diets.  Not only do bad diets and poor amounts of physical exercise impair one’s health alone, they will exacerbate other issues one might have with their health. It might very well be that Australia’s health system is clogged full of patients being punished with further pain for a lifetime’s bad dieting.

Overweightness, obesity and bad dieting form a special category of health problems today because of the nature of their causes, and their crucial relevance to the obvious, and yet ignored advantages of having a well-developed preventative health system. Any and all involved in Australia’s health sector deserves laurels for their efforts, but it should not be found surprising that Australia sports frustratingly few and under-developed preventative health programs with such a ‘user-pays’ civic attitude to healthcare. The real motive behind this piece will now become clear. The commercialisation of Australian health is to blame for this, and all of Australia’s physical and mental health problems – including the ever increasing Australian waistline.

Attractive and easily-exploited avenues for profit in the food industry have dramatically slimmed as international food corporations have merged and stratified over the years, and there were many solutions to this problem for super-conglomerates, but there were a couple of which to speak. The first way in which big companies sought to pursue greater profit was to increase the extent to which their food was industrially processed. Such a course of action obviously involved developing new ways to make the means of producing food more efficient and productive, and involved exploiting ever-increasing amounts of reconstituted and industrially simplified ingredients for their relatively low cost. Mass-producing food in this manner also necessarily involved radically simplifying the form which the foods took. The second major solution was to constantly rebrand, remarket and advertise these foods.

The appeal of bad food is nigh-on-irresistible to many because of its chemical construction and psychological promotion – without mentioning the effect of the super cheap price of such foods. There seems to be some sort of morbid logic behind observing that the world’s cheapest forms of sustenance are the worst for one’s health.

Although still expensive in Perth, eating out or buying pre-made meals are becoming more and more prevalent in Western societies – indeed city apartments worldwide are being built with ever-smaller kitchens, if not without them at all. The economic incentive to eschew food preparation from one’s daily activities is ever-increasing. Value-judgements aside, no-one has any real time for, or interest in self-prepared food.

Salt, sugar and fat saturated foods are indeed the slow killer. It is patently obvious that if we do nothing, we’re all destined for strange new tortuous health problems that may cause people to die unnecessarily early.

The UWA Guild elections saw Liberty ran on a platform promising, that if elected, greater ‘food freedom’ throughout the UWA campus would be established. This policy involved ‘deregulating’ the controls the guild enforces over its food distribution, allowing students to have ‘greater choice’ over what they could eat on campus by allowing the guild to offer more food at cheaper prices. Liberty said that greater choice meant greater freedom for UWA students, and that meant that UWA students would be happier.

It should be regarded that such action actually achieves nothing but the complete opposite of its aims. We should be restricting the forms of food that people consume not only at UWA but in society at large. Freedom derived from food ironically manifests itself in very tight regulation of the types of food people consume. This control over food concerns itself not only with freedom with regard to people’s health, but also that of human-kind’s survival on the planet; the current modes of food production we employ today are incredibly pollutive.

The logic behind instituting more food regulation is that unhealthy, high-carbon, and water-intensive forms of nutrition impede people’s freedom. A person is denied real, lasting and substantive freedom in their life due to these foods both in a physical and temporal sense.

Sicknesses that are caused or prolonged by bad food prevent people from physically going and doing what they want. Such illnesses also present obstacles in the way of a person’s ability to realise their true potential. The degree to which current food production contributes to climate change is also another way in which our freedom is inhibited by ‘more choice’.

In effect, ‘more choice’ as it is currently understood, necessarily denies an individual, and indeed the human race, freedom.

In an attempt to provide an answer to this problem, outlined below are a series of policies that any government can implement to help secure better health, and more happiness for its population. The proposals are ranked in their degree of severity so that the entire premise being advanced isn’t too unpalatable. Note that here ‘bad food’ means any kind of food that poses unnecessary obstacles on freedom:

  1. Change the way we educate everyone about healthy diets.
  2. Ban the advertising of bad food.
  3. Doctors make assessments of people who are (or at risk of being) overweight and issue them periodic quotas of bad food.
  4. Tax bad food – or, opt for cap-and-trade bad food credits.
  5. Subject everyone to bad food quotas.
  6. Effectively ban bad food. This could involve turning fast-food outlets into state-run food distribution centres, and banning the consumption of meat.
  7. Enforce compulsory physical exercise.

Some of the above proposals may, at first glance, appear extreme, but the reader should know that there is no better alternative to a solution than that which is preventative. Medical professionals should play an active role in public nutrition. If medical science proves that certain diets are good for people’s health, these diets should be enforced. Good health means more freedom, and a better environment means more freedom.

There’s no reason why dinner at a restaurant would be ruled out by the execution of even the most extreme of the above policy proposals. Implementing the above would also allow governments to change the terrible industry culture and working conditions of countless youths employed in the food sectors of the service and retail industry. Food preparation as an occupation should no longer be relegated to the chip-frying dungeons of the world’s economy.

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One thought on “Food Freedom

  1. On the small scale, does this mean that the guild should stop serving unhealthy food? Or place a tariff on food deemed ‘unhealthy’ in order to make healthy options more economically appealing? Who decides the relative merits of a food’s impact on our overall health? Would it not be better to have nutritional information available for each of the guild catering’s offering available as guidelines for consumers to decide the relative merits of a meal?

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