top of page

Policy

One effective way of fighting the diabetes epidemic is legislation, such as regulating how transparent companies must be about the sugar they add to foods, and designing tax structures to make healthy food cheaper than unhealthy food. This page highlights some of the most impactful legislation regarding food and public health in recent times. 

Nutrition Labels

In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its food nutrition labeling requirements in response to scientific studies proving the correlation between diet and certain diseases, including diabetes. The new labels are clearer, making it easier for people to make informed decisions. Food manufacturers now also have to disclose–in addition to the amount of sugar in a product–how much of that sugar was added, as well as what percentage of the recommended daily allowance. Large manufacturers were required to update their labels by January 1, 2020; small manufacturers were required to update their labels by January 1, 2021.

diabeaters nutrition label

Food Deserts

Most recently, in February of 2021, Senators Mark R. Warner (VA),Jerry Moran (KS), Bob Casey (PA), and Shelley Moore Capito (WV), introduced the Healthy Food Access for All Americans (HFAAA) Act. It proposes to address food deserts by offering grants and tax breaks to companies that build or refurbish grocery stores, farmers markets and food banks in areas that lack them. The bill text states:  

 

“Currently, an estimated 39 million Americans live in what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) classifies as a food desert – not living within a mile of a grocery store in urban communities or 10 miles of a grocery store in rural areas. The lack of healthy food options has devastating effects on the health of communities, leading to higher incidence of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.” 

Sugar Taxes

Candy, confectionery, and sodas are taxed in many states. A 2019 study suggests that these taxes do serve their purpose in lowering the amount of sales of these products. However, as prices rise for sugary foods, new problems emerge. Firstly, taxing the products themselves rather than the companies who make them does not provide any incentive for the companies to adjust their formulas, and instead burdens consumers with the extra cost. Secondly, raising the prices of sugary products does nothing to decrease the price of healthy foods. This leads to all food being more expensive and inaccessible, which unfairly affects people on low incomes. 

Subsidizing and providing tax breaks to farmers and whole food sellers–rather than or in addition to taxing sugar–would be more effective and equitable. 

diabeaters candy
diabeaters advertising photo
diabeaters advertising photo
diabeaters advertising photo
diabeaters advertising photo

Advertising

Many products with added sugar do not clearly state that they have added sugar, meaning consumers cannot make properly informed decisions. Some sugary products even advertise themselves as “healthy” foods, such as Vitamin Water (made by Coca Cola) or many cereal/granola bars

 

Many sugary food products advertise in a way that might be considered unethical. For example, many are marketed towards children, who do not understand the health implications or risks of addiction. Think back to when you were a child. How many of your favorite breakfast cereals had cartoon characters and games on the boxes? Celebrities have endorsed McDonalds, Pepsi and Coca Cola. “Happy Meals” come with a free toy. Chuck E Cheese is famous for children’s parties. Chocolates and candy are branded with Disney and Pixar characters. Even the fact that candy is sold out checkouts, where children are often bored waiting for their parents to checkout, is intentional. 

 

In 2011, the FTC released a set of “proposed voluntary standards” for advertising food to children. The guidelines suggest that foods advertised to children should “promote health.” Unfortunately, since then there has been no further update and no enforcement. According to a 2013 study, nearly $2 billion each year is spent on marketing food products to children as young as 2 years old, and 84 percent were for foods high in saturated fat, trans fats, sugars, and/or sodium. More recently, a 2019 study showed that advertising had a significant impact on childrens’ attitudes toward foods. 

 

Recently, the UK implemented a 9pm watershed on all commercials advertising unhealthy food or drink, in an effort to prevent children from being drawn towards these products, and discourage companies from investing in ads targeted to children or unhealthy food products. The US needs to promote the advertisement of healthy foods, and simultaneously regulate or outright ban the targeting of these severely unhealthy foods towards children. This could include a watershed like the UK’s, or stopping cartoon characters or celebrities featuring in ads or packaging for foods deemed unhealthy. 

bottom of page