Annals of Health Law
HOW TO REGULATE TOXIC FOODS
diabetes, 16 and in 2008, more than 616,000 Americans died from heart
disease. 17 Meanwhile, approximately 45. 3 million adults smoke
cigarettes, 18 and approximately 443,000 Americans die prematurely each
year from tobacco use. 19 Thus, the number of people adversely impacted by
sugar exceeds the number adversely impacted by tobacco. A third (and
related) reason to focus on sugar is that it is added to approximately eighty
percent of processed food products on the market. 20 Thus, dangers
associated with it are almost impossible to avoid. Added sugar’s infiltration
into most processed food products undoubtedly helps explain the increase
in sugar consumption.
This article explores the health risks associated with added sugar. It then
examines how, if at all, sugar should be regulated, by considering tobacco
regulation as a possible model. Part I identifies the health risks of sugar
consumption. Part II examines the reasons why sugar is added to so much
of our food supply. Part III provides an overview of tobacco regulation,
including educational initiatives, warning labels, advertising restrictions,
age limitations, and taxes. Finally, Part IV provides a framework for sugar
regulation, suggesting that most of the foregoing laws designed to
discourage tobacco use should, with the exception of age restrictions and
with appropriate modifications, be applied to products with large quantities
of added sugar. 21 Part IV also suggests regulatory changes within the FDA
to remove sugar’s classification as a substance that is “generally recognized
as safe (GRAS).” 22
In addition to looking solely at sugar, Part IV also takes a broader look at
how food policy can shift to improve the overall food supply in ways that
enhance consumer choice,and proposes the appointment of an independent
Housing Characteristics: 2010, U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/
(last viewed Sept. 27, 2012) (approximately 80,000,000 are minors, which means
approximately 234,000,000 are adults).
16. CTRS. FORDISEASECONTROL&PREVENTION, NATIONALDIABETESFACTSHEET,
2011, at 1 (2011), available at http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/ndfs_2011.pdf.
17. Heart Disease Facts, CTR.FO R DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION, http://
www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm (last updated Mar. 23, 2012).
18. Adult Cigarette Smoking in the United States: Current Estimate, CTRS. FOR DISEASE
CONTROL & PREVENTION, http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/adult_data/
cig_smoking/ index.htm (last updated Mar. 14, 2012).
20. See Here’s the Thing, infra note 112 and accompanying text.
21. Many of the recommendations in this article can be implemented administratively
where hopefully public health considerations are more likely to outweigh political ones than
they would at the legislative level. Mayor Bloomberg opted for this administrative
approach, having the NYC Department of Health vote on the soda size restrictions rather
than the legislative City Council.