The federal government is spending more than $1 billion a year on subsidies for food additives that have been linked to obesity, according to a new study from an Iowa-based research group.
“The rise in childhood obesity has many causes, but one of the most important is the increased prevalence of high-fat, heavily sweetened junk food,” the Iowa Public Interest Research Group (IPIRG) says in the opening to its report on the study, which found that American taxpayers are making the problem worse by subsidizing junk food ingredients.
For example, the IPIRG study, “Apples to Twinkies
,” discovered that $16.9 billion of the $260 billion spent on agriculture subsidies between 1995 and 2010 went specifically to food manufacturers that make four of the most common food additives — corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy or hydrogenated vegetable oils.
On the other hand, the government paid out only $262 million over the same period to subsidize apples, which the report described as “the only significant federal subsidy” of fresh fruits and vegetables.
To make their point that the federal government is not helping but hurting efforts to address the continuing rise in childhood obesity, the IPIRG researchers broke down the spending this way:
“If these agriculture subsidies went directly to consumers to allow them to purchase food, each of America’s 144 million taxpayers would be given $7.36 to spend on junk food and 11 cents with which to buy apples each year — enough to buy 19 Twinkies but less than a quarter of one Red Delicious apple apiece.”
The public interest group said the report demonstrates “the need to reform national agricultural subsidies” and suggested that it might be one way for lawmakers to end wasteful spending and reduce the federal deficit.
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