A huge debate is over what the government can and cannot tell us what to do. Some feel that the government should be in nearly all parts of our lives. Others want the government completely removed from our everyday lives. What is best way to go forward?
That's a good question that might not ever have an answer the people could agree upon. Maybe there is no correct answer. But we can at least explore it. While my title goes down the path of how the government's involvement in food is wrong, it might not be completely wrong. I like to look at both sides and see if I still agree at the end.
The Good of Society
The government exists in part to protect the people and give them the structure to continue on through the years. How that is done can be hotly debated. There is the obvious military which is to protect us from invasion and attack. Laws are passed so that food is prepared in safe conditions and workers are protected on the job.
The years of existence for this young country has shown that there are many areas that the government can be involved for the good of society. Citizens cannot infringe on the rights of others. Work environments have to be safe. A child cannot be harmed. What if that good for society extends to our personal selves?
Our foods cannot contain contaminates. The government makes sure we have foods that don't contain poisons. Warning labels are required for items that could cause harm but we still have the choice to use them. Some things are banned. Some restricted. How far does that extend to our food?
Government's Past Involvement in Our Food
In the past, the government has gotten their influence in our foods from production, processing, and consumption. The US government is not the first ever in history to do this. From as early as the thirteenth century, food quality has been found to exist. That means, in some degree, the United States has always made laws to protect its citizens. It just didn't always make the laws when they should have.
Somethings were just accepted in life. No one fully knew of the dangers involved. If they did have an inkling, they were more prone to ignore it for profit's sake than to protect the consumer. Laws were usually only passed if profit was realized or the issues at stake were so large that the government couldn't ignore it. In the late 19th century, it was established that there had to be a standard for the consumption of America's food consumption. This translated into a committee that would eventually become the FDA.
In 1906, the Food and Drugs Act was passed to prohibit adulterated foods to cross state lines commercially. Also passed that year was the Meat Inspection Act. This was an example of exposure of meat processing plants through people such as the author Upton Sinclair. It was determined that meat packing plants were in the habit of using "poisonous preservatives and dyes in foods". (https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/fdas-evolving-regulatory-powers/milestones-us-food-and-drug-law-history) To read the details would turn a modern person's stomach.
Over the next few years, it was discovered that many medications and food additives were laced with narcotics and other harmful substances. These were listed out and directly banned from being used in products consumed by humans.
With the new developments that came with World War II came new packaging wonders for food that would preserve it for long periods of time. This was great for those on the front lines who needed to have their food brought over long distances. These packaging developments moved into everyday society with canned meats, fruit, and vegetables. This led to guidelines established to set standards on toxicity of chemicals within foods. As the years progressed, this included additives that were proven to cause cancer. The government passed regulations where additives had to be tested before use instead of after as it had been in the decades before.
In the late 1960s, sanitation regulations were passed for the preparation of food and the transportation of the food. Research began to dive deeper into the preparation of food and the safety to the consumer. Regulations were set into place for the labeling of products and the use of the correct ingredients. Harmful methods and ingredients had been used for many generations. Now the government had learned that danger was in many of the foods they consumed.
Standards also were put into place for what the labels of food could show to the consumer. This was to educate the people on what was in their food. As the information became available on the nutritional components of the food, that was added to the labels as well. In the 21st century, labels were required to show the amount of trans fat within the packaged food. This was enacted so the consumer could be informed on the impact of the foods they consumed on their own bodies due to the high amount of obesity found in the country.
In the past, the government banned ingredients or food preparation methods due to extreme dangers to the consumer. If any part was potentially harmful, the consumer was educated but left to make their choices in whether or not to consume the product or not. Labels had to also include any food that was known to be an allergen to some people. Harmful to only some, the labels were a warning for those it did impact.
The involvement in what the consumer was eating was for protection and education. Toxic protects were removed and potentially harmful were warned about.
Present Government Agendas With What We Eat
Under President Obama, a huge act was passed that changed the school lunch menu to offer more healthy choices in an attempt to fight the rising trend of obesity. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 took out the choices of what was considered junk food and replaced them with healthier options. See https://www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/senate-bill/3307 to read the entire 2010 Act.
In the beginning of 2020, changes were proposed to make adjustments to the Act so that there would be less food waste and more options for students. Schools noticed that waste had not decreased much and students were skipping meals. My husband is a public school teacher, and we have many friends in the profession. They have continually commented on how numerous students just didn't eat. The choices for them were tasteless, in their opinion. Their lunches went from burgers and pizza to whole wheat alternatives. The change was drastic and caused drastic reactions.
Some politicians have hinted at going further and removing anything considered junk food or drink. They want to remove anything that could contribute to an unhealthy life. That includes specific meats, desserts, and snacks.
So, what good does it to have the government involved in what we eat? There are quite a few good points.
- Safe Food - As you can see from the past involvement with the government, foods have become safer to consume. The government has stepped in to ensure that nothing toxic is put into processed foods and even that some components of raising food is done in a manner that will not make the consumer sick.
- Ethical Practices - When the government gets involved, businesses are forced to be ethical in dealing with food and how it impacts consumers. Some companies have known of the possible hazards their products might pose, but they still continued selling. It was only when the government got involved did they begin to create safer products.
There are always dangers when a strong entity gets involved. That is especially true when it is the government. When the government is involved, rules are not selective. They stretch across all people. They can have unsettling outcomes.
If the government begins telling people what they can and cannot eat, do they ever step across a line where they begin to infringe on other people's freedom? That's where the danger lies and the fear. Where is the limit of how deep the government gets in individual lives? That is one area that separates most of the political parties.
The dangers? Getting too involved in people's lives. Yes, actions have been to protect the people. But is there a point where the people have the right to protect themselves?
Balancing the involvement of the government in the lives of individuals can be dangerous. Many wars have started over too much involvement. The very establishment of the United States was over too little and too much involvement of the Crown. So anything that same, newly created government can be dangerous in an extremely hypocritical view.
Personally, I do want the government protecting me and all those around me. Yet I want to keep a degree of freedom where I don't feel controlled or stifled by the government. Can that balance be achieved? What are your thoughts?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 20, 2020:
Overall, I think that the FDA does a pretty good job. I liked the decision to add the ingredients to the packaging. It makes it easier to decipher what we are consuming when we purchase items.