Annals of Health Law
HOW TO REGULATE TOXIC FOODS
One inevitable question is why the Bloomberg administration singled out
sugar. 5 After all, foods that are high in fat, like sugar, can contribute to
obesity and clog arteries, 6 and foods that are high in sodium can cause
hypertension. 7 What health risks associated with sugar consumption are so
serious that they warrant the recent wave of attention and regulation?
First, sugar, and more specifically “added sugar,” 8 contributes to some of
the most widespread chronic diseases in the world. 9 In addition to
America’s obesity epidemic, excessive sugar consumption is linked to
diabetes and heart disease. 10 New research suggests that sugar is also a
“chronic poison” that directly contributes to diseases like cancer11 and
depression, 12 among others. 13
Second, the number of people adversely impacted by excessive sugar
consumption exceeds the number who are adversely impacted by tobacco
use. Sugar consumption worldwide has tripled over the past fifty years, 14
and the number of people suffering from chronic diseases associated with it
has also grown. Approximately thirty-six percent (about eighty million) of
American adults are obese, 15 more than twenty-five million suffer from
5. There are various forms of sugar, including sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup
and glucose. See infra note 8 and accompanying text.
6. Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose, MAYO CLINIC, www.mayoclinic.com/
health/fat/NU00262 (last visited Jan. 8, 2013).
7. Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now, MAYO CLINIC, www.mayoclinic.com/
health/sodium/NU00284 (last visited Jan. 8, 2013).
8. This article addresses added sugar, sugar that is not a natural part of the food product
but is added as part of food processing. This includes sugar from sugar cane and sugar beet,
high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners that add fructose to the food supply. See
Robert H. Lustig et al., Public Health: The Toxic Truth About Sugar, 482 NATURE 27 (Feb.
2, 2012); cf. WILLAM DUFTY, SUGAR BLUES (1975) (defining refined sugar as “produced by
multiple chemical processing of the juice of the sugar cane or beet and removal of all fiber
and protein, which amount to ninety percent of the natural plant.”); JOHN S. YUDKIN, PURE,
WHITE AND DEADLY 28 (2nd ed. 1986) (explaining that some foods, like fruits have natural
sugar and do not present the same health concerns because fruits also have natural fiber that
counterbalances the fructose contained in fruit.
9. Lustig et al., supra note 8 (noting that chronic, non-communicable diseases like heart
disease and diabetes contribute to thirty-five million deaths each year).
11. See infra notes 48, 56 and accompanying text.
12. See DUFTY, supra note 8, at 62-63, 69-71.
13. See infra notes 48-57 and accompanying text.
14. Lustig et al., supra note 8.
15. CYNTHIA L. OGDEN ET AL., U.S. DEP’T OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVS., PREVALENCE OF
OBESITY IN THE UNITED STATES, 2009-2010, at 1-3 (Jan. 2012), available at http://
www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.pdf (“Obesity increases the risk of a number of
health conditions including hypertension, adverse lipid concentrations, and type 2
diabetes.”); see also U.S. & World Population Clocks, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU,
http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html (last viewed Sept. 27, 2012) (noting that
the United States’ population is about 314,000,000.); Profile of General Population and