In a recent FindLaw article, Cornell Law School Professor Sherry Colb addresses whether New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to prevent food stamp recipients from buying sugar-sweetened sodas and beverages violates any constitutional proscriptions. Titled “No Buying Soda with Food Stamps? Considering Mayor Bloomberg’s New Health Initiative,” Colb’s article concludes that arguments about equal treatment for the poor and consumer freedom in general hold no weight given the overwhelming risks to public health posed by “unhealthy, empty-calorie food.” She expresses confidence that food stamp recipients will experience measurable benefits by avoiding some unhealthy foods, which will convince public officials to expand such initiatives “to take on various industries that profit at the expense of human health.”
Meanwhile, a New York Times article discusses what prompted a writer and former Rutgers professor to begin the “Candy Professor” blog, which apparently “dives deep into the American relationship with candy, finding irrational and interesting ideas everywhere.” Samira Kawash, PhD, who authors the blog, was reportedly struck by the “moral and ethical baggage” carried by candy when she offered jelly beans to two 3-year-olds during her daughter’s play date at a new friend’s house. Despite the presence of cookies and sugary fruit juices in the friend’s kitchen, the parents reacted with shock, with the mother noting her child had never eaten candy and the father comparing candy to crack cocaine.
According to at least one nutrition scholar, candy is deemed “bad” because it does not have the “health halo” attributed to food products such as granola bars and fruit juices. Yet, candy apparently provides just 6 percent of added sugars in the American diet, while sweetened beverages supply 46 percent. Kawash reports having a complicated relationship with candy. Growing up in the 1970s, she apparently recalls an “endless and mostly frustrating quest for candy,” because her parents limited her intake to a small indulgence on Sundays. She reportedly binged on candy to carry her through her undergraduate days and has since used the technique of flushing handfuls of candy down the toilet to keep herself from eating it, admitting, “Obviously, my own relationship with candy is not totally healthy.”
Kawash has found that once candy became widely available in the 1880s, it was advertised as a food product that could promote health. It has also, at times, been scorned as too stimulating or otherwise hazardous and been subject to public fears about tampering and contamination. Doctors even blamed candy for the spread of polio early in the 20th century, without any evidence, according to Kawash. Citing the recent proposal to prohibit the use of food stamps in New York City to buy soft drinks, she has also found that “When moneyed classes indulge in sugar, it’s part of an acceptable leisure activity. But when poor people do the same thing, it’s considered pathological.” See The New York Times, October 26, 2010; FindLaw.com, October 27, 2010.