The Food Police

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jayson Lusk, food economist, professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University and author of, The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate, explains why soda bans and foodie trends such as locavorism don't make any economic sense, and why the industrialization of food production is actually a good thing.


Jayson Lusk

Comments [32]

Jennie from Indiana

Looking forward to reading the book as I believe in individual's personal responsibility & acceptance of the good & bad consequences of our actions

Apr. 17 2013 02:22 AM
Jayson Lusk from Stillwater

Thanks for the feedback. To clear up a couple misconception: I did not argue avocados were unhealthy. Rather, I argued that a tax on saturated fats would limit intake of (healthy) avocados because they contain saturated fat.

Also, I'd encourage folks to actually read the book. I cite hundreds of academic studies that are *not* industry funded, nor are they selective. I've personally published more than a hundred peer-reviewed academic studies on food economics, and I believe I accurately convey the sense of the literature. Yes, my writing style is provocative, but it isn't misleading or based on journalistic anecdotes. I don't expect everyone will agree with me, but I hope the agreements will be substantive and based on the logic and scientific literature I cite in the book.

Apr. 16 2013 09:43 PM
Henry from Manhattan

It’s a shame about Jayson Lusk’s book.

The way to combat ideological ideas is to infuse nuance and good evidence into the conversation, not react with polar opposite ideological ideas supported by questionable evidence replete with name-calling.

Lusk’s book just makes it harder for people to address reservations with the food movement and real concerns of food production and consumption, including health, environment, economics, etc. It’s complex, and a simplistic treatment adds nothing.

I’ve read some more on Amazon, it’s gone from bad to worse. It’s like reading my Dad’s conservo-paranoia Facebook page.

Too bad. It’s a missed opportunity to offer something substantive.

Apr. 16 2013 12:18 PM
Henry from Manhattan

Forget Denmark. Look at the ban on trans fat in NYC.

It took a very bad ingredient out of people’s diets, often consumed unknowingly, and had no measurable effect on long-term economics of food providers.

Shop donuts taste just fine. If you really want trans fat donuts pick up a package at any bodega.

We can't tout personal responsibility while ignoring the loaded food environment as if there isn't a constant barrage of marketing and other poor environmental factors determined by economic factors or social inertia, not decided benefits to society or individuals.

Sorry, government has a role in balancing such lopsidedness out. We can have a discussion about what that means, but "government is the problem" or “government only creates problems and can’t solve anything” are ideological assumptions that don’t further reasonable discussion.

Apr. 16 2013 12:16 PM

Today I agree with Mr jgarbuz. Yes tax the H out of refined sugar. Also agreed w him yesterday - High schools should prepare students for work and responsible adult life - and stop with the silly notion that ALL students are in training for a university degree.

Apr. 16 2013 11:54 AM

Is this guy pals with the styrofoam apologist you had on the show a few weeks ago?

Apr. 16 2013 11:49 AM
gene from NYC

--Cherry-picked studies ("I can show you a couple...")

--Misrepresentation (how about how donuts tasted BEFORE polyunsaturated fats, etc., got injected into the mix? How about real bread BEFORE Wonder? Even tasted pork fresh from the farm, WITHOUT anti-biotic, taste-robbing feeds?)

--BS arguments about "who knows more?" (yes, real scientists do tend to know more than you--that's their job)

--Fake economic disaster arguments.


--Name-calling ("food police")

Let's see, where have I heard this sort of thing before?

Oh, yes--the oil-backed anti-climate change advocates.

Oh, yes, and even before that--the tobacco industry, in a 60-year campaign that got them convicted as racketeers in a federal court.

Apr. 16 2013 11:41 AM

Every time I hear someone say, "companies are going to do whatever..." in reference to marketing to children, I assume the person also doesn't care if hard core pornography advertising is equally available to minors. You can't stop the free market, right?

Apr. 16 2013 11:35 AM
art525 from Park Slope

I am very much a liberal. But sometimes Brian takes a stance that makes me want to distance myself from him and those who promote the same things he does. He sometimes sounds like the cliched image that the right paints those of us on the left with. Yes Brian we know you are on the side of all that is right and good. Yes you've made us quite aware that you are a biker and a runner. Yes you do everything right. But you know what? I have a problem with you and Mike Bloomberg trying to enforce social engineering that maybe some don't subscirbe to. It is pretty smug and pretty arrogant. And I feel that I must be on the right side on this since jgarbuz is on the other side.

Apr. 16 2013 11:35 AM

CirKus Klown®.

Apr. 16 2013 11:35 AM
Kim from Brooklyn

Thank you Brian for your clear statement about the food industry luring us into buying extremely unhealthy foods. What more do we have in life than our bodies - connected to our minds? It should be a priority to take care of them.

Apr. 16 2013 11:35 AM
Charl from Jersey City

Sorry Jayson, I think your arguments on the whole are totally off-base. I guess you may have found those 2 or 3 arguments FOR salt intake etc, and are like a typical Climate denier... find the scientist that agrees with you even if it takes forever to search for them, so your 'arguments' can be supported. If all fast food places serve unhealthy food and that food is the cheapest for low income people to afford to buy, you don't think that they should be made to prepare healthier food? I am not for a 'nanny state', but seriously, there are logical changes that HAVE to be legislated so the dollar does not trump the greater healthy good.

Apr. 16 2013 11:35 AM

oops how is it that Indian cooking traditionally has more valuable lore (and medicine) in it than many are aware, including the data miners - who offer other info but hardly the whole picture.

Apr. 16 2013 11:33 AM

Michael - absolutely - avacados are one of the best foods their are. the key with all natural food is the seasons they exist. There is a reason that certain foods are in season at different times. Our bodies know that. Some will just cause it a natural cycle - but I believe it's God directed. There should be no dispute though that all natural foods in moderation are the best for our health. This guy would have been comedic if health wasn't so serious. Anyone can make a study that says anything.

Apr. 16 2013 11:32 AM

mcdonalds “health food” is generally tasteless and bland

Apr. 16 2013 11:32 AM
Julie from Union Square

Has he walked into LaGuardia Airport lately? Or a low-income grocery store? You can't find ANYTHING with any nutritional content, so clearly the companies are winning. If I had a fair set of food choices that were not so influenced by corporations, I wouldn't have to travel with my own food because I would have healthy options available to me in any public venue. The fact of the matter is, I don't. Brian, you're right. The corporations are winning and are bombarding on us on every side with their products from every side.

Apr. 16 2013 11:32 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Well, I've had it with paying high insurance and high medical costs when a lot of people eat non nutritious industrially made a garbage food that leads to massive illness. Then the rest of us pay.
This guy must be a shill for food industry. On the take. All based on fake science.

Apr. 16 2013 11:32 AM
Michael from NJ

A lot of his studies cited are industry sponsored.

Apr. 16 2013 11:31 AM

Who PAYS for peoples free choice to eat like FAT slobs??

As long as I cannot afford healthcare, I'm going to advocate against industrial food production and unhealthy food options.

Apr. 16 2013 11:31 AM
Paulina from bayonne

Which planet did he fall from? We can be responsible all we want, but when products at store are unhealthy we don't have much of a choice. And salads at MCDonald are also unhealthy just so he knows....

Apr. 16 2013 11:31 AM

How about reading the history of eating around the world? There was no science based evidence in your great great grandmother's nutrition. How is it that Indians have known without science how important

Our food lore today is the product of economic warfare - read Mary Enig -

What is salt? I'm willing to bet you don't even know - Mary Enig's book, Eat Fat Lose Fat - you will find a whole different set of info

Apr. 16 2013 11:31 AM
David from Queens

Has the guest actually tried a donut lately, or is he simply assuming they don't taste as good. Anyone paying attention to food in NYC knows we are benefitting from a donut revolution at the moment, with multiple new businesses opened over the last ten years that are recognized worldwide as superior products. NONE of them use trans fats and they are generally recognized as tasting BETTER than what was previously available.

I'm not pointing this out to knit-pick his statement about donuts, but rather to point out that if he is making large generalizations about food quality based on highly arguable OPINIONS, then what value does his research have?

Apr. 16 2013 11:30 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

As long as the taxpayer or other health insurance purchasers have to cover the health costs of those who recklessly ingest vast amounts of sugar or tobacco, etc., society has a right to tax those things heavily as well.

Apr. 16 2013 11:30 AM

Also to the author - unless he plans to do away with any public subsidy to treating chronic disease caused by diet... then it DOES affect everyone else what other ppl eat. In the same way drunk driving and second hand smoke have direct and indirect consequences to the healthcare costs of each taxpayer.

Apr. 16 2013 11:30 AM
Michael from Manhattan

Please don't let Mr. Lusk impugn the healthy benefits of avocados. They are a perfectly good food and their fat content is just fine. Look it up. I can't stand when people make up facts to fit their opinions.

Apr. 16 2013 11:29 AM
KZ in NJ from Middlesex County, NJ

This guy is a shill for the food industry.

Apr. 16 2013 11:28 AM
Suzie from Chelsea

Try a Donut Plant donut, they are the best donuts ANYWHERE! Grand St and West 23rd St.

Apr. 16 2013 11:27 AM

You can argue about "rights"... but my poor parents never allowed us to drink soda at home because they told us it was bad for us. Simple. To this day - if I drink soda twice in a year - that is a lot.
That goes for many other foods as well. This writer should look back at history and found out what "rich man's diseases" were. They basically consist of what we see in the U.S. - from eating foods that are not the best for our bodies (such as too much meat).

Apr. 16 2013 11:26 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The evidence is clear: high ingestion of sugars not makes us obese, but leads to diabetes. The processed food industry has been putting sugar into everything to become addicted to buying vast amounts of their relatively cheap junk. Sugar should be treated like tobacco.

Apr. 16 2013 11:25 AM
Henry from Manhattan

There’s a place for a book like Lusk’s. I’d probably be classified as very liberal, but I probably don’t disagree with a lot of the criticisms that Lusk is making on the food conversation. However, reading a snippet on Amazon, it doesn’t’ t bode well.

Jayson Lusk writes:
“Something must be done. Or so you would believe if you listened to the hysterics of the emerging elite who claim to know better what we should eat. I call them the food police to be polite, but a more accurate term might be food fascists of food socialists. They are totalitarians when it comes to food, and they seek control over your refrigerator, by government regulation when they can or by moralizing and guilt when they can’t.”

Ugh. Repulsive tone. Sounds like a segment from Glenn Beck.

“Hysterics, elite, fascists, socialists, totalitarians,” doesn’t sound like the start of a discussion made in good faith.

Apr. 16 2013 11:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

WE should just tax the heck out of sugars of all kind the same as we do tobacco.

Apr. 16 2013 11:22 AM
Henry from Manhattan

I immediately agree with Jayson Lusk on why widespread locavorism cannot scale up and shouldn’t be something the government begins subsidizing as some inherent good. Yes, we are much better off with industrialized food than otherwise, however, there’s room for discussion as to how things can be improved.

I disagree with the objection to measures like Mayor Bloomberg’s soda size limit. It wasn’t a soda ban. Anyone could purchase any soda they wanted, as many liters as they wanted. It was a limit on the container size to address the very well understood social sciences regarding consumer choice and environmental factors. We regulate cigarettes (no soda, isn’t cigarettes, but it’s a useful example), you can buy a pack, but seller’s can’t sell one or two cigarettes at a time; how cigarettes are sold are regulated.

Lusk seems to think that NYC’s trans fat ban was a bad idea. He is wrong and no one’s “freedom” was unduly harmed. There’s still an abundance of junk food and trans fat filled junk food on store shelves, it’s only restaurants, were ingredients are not readily available that the ban is implemented.

Apr. 16 2013 11:21 AM

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