Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Put pathology photos on fat food like cigarettes

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-02-10

Bad food habits are just as dangerous to individuals, and harmful to the economy, as cigarette smoking, if not worse, so I’ve been prodded into thinking about Mississippi House Bill 282 and what other "extreme" measures are useful, yet easier to implement.

Big warnings, and perhaps photographs of pathology specimens on the packets of high trans-fats, high-mono-and-disaccharide foods would be socially useful.

Photos of ulcerated diabetic feet (and stumps where they are amputated), sclerotic blood vessels, or big-letter warnings like "Obesity harms circulation and may damage erectile capabilities" across junk food might actually achieve something.

I wonder what the most effective slogan (equivalent to "smoking harms your baby") might be?

Any ideas?


3 Responses to “Put pathology photos on fat food like cigarettes”

  1. zombinol said

    A traffic light system (Red, Amber, Green) was proposed for food packaging in the UK in 2004, see Top brands threatened with boycott over obesity, the only problem is that although that systems intentions seem sound, the association of red and amber are counter intuitive, they are the fast food hailing colours, they invoke hunger,
    I believe that that scheme is flawed because of the apparent association of colour to danger – increased adrenalin and increased hunger, see Red and Yellow Kills a Fellow and Color Meanings and Internet Marketing

    So pathology photos – given they have a lot of red and the fatty contents of arteries is yellowish may actually entice hunger!

    I suggest that the photos are black and white as they are the least favoured colours among marketers as they detract from brand reinforcement.

    Now for some slogans:

    – If your kids are fat, you are unfit, If your are fat, you are unfit.
    – You don’t want to look like the back of a bus (for bus & bus stop advertising)
    – Grow up not out
    – Eat vegetables, don’t become one & show a picture of an obese couch potato.

    Also how about a very high tax on fatty & junk foods or an age restriction for purchase.

  2. Dave Bath said

    Z: You say "Also how about a very high tax on fatty & junk"
    This is tricky, as some people NEED high-fat low-sugar foods, for example epileptics on ketogenic diets, where the danger from heart disease, although considerable, is considered less than the danger from high doses of anticonvulsants (which, as I know personally, can be really nasty).

    As for age restriction, again, this is tricky. Imagine a diabetic kid needing lots of sugar to avoid a hypoglycaemic attack. If such exceptions are known, we can bet that all kids will go into milk bars saying “I’m diabetic”.

    Such practical difficulties are why I suggested (in the post on Mississipi House Bill 282), it should not be a blanket ban on eateries serving the morbidly obese, but could be improved by allowing them to serve only healthier food, or smaller portions.

    It’s also hard for shopkeepers to discriminate between someone who is obese, and someone who has really bad oedema. When the extra weight is due to water retention, perhaps a mineralocorticoid problem, why restrict energy intake?

    Something needs to be done, but there are many practical difficulties when the needs of people with specific medical conditions are considered – and such people usually have enough pressure on them financially and can’t afford extra costs. Labelling seems to be one of the easier options.

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