Monday, February 15, 2010

Junk food taxation

For decades now a variety of taxation formulas to help fight obesity have been proposed. The idea is that if there's a financial repercussion to eating junk foods then consumption of these foods would cut back. None of these proposals have ever passed legislation, but it's interesting to read what nutritionists and legislators have been trying to do over the past three decades to fight obesity.

Many people feel the government has no place telling people what they can consume and yet taxation on alcohol and tobacco has existed for years. The fact remains that a fast food meal is decidedly less expensive than a healthy meal so no incentive exists to move to a healthier way of eating. If fast food were taxed and a subsidy provided to sustainable producers of fresh fruits and vegetables the balance would begin to change towards healthier eating trends.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that health problems associated with obesity account for a whopping $147 billion in health care expenses annually. A fast food tax can help offset these expenses and pay for obesity prevention initiatives.

This past fall the fast food tax concept reemerged as the Obama administration sought ways to pay for its proposed health care bill. Obama calls it a "sin tax" and said it's an idea worth exploring. His idea would be to impose a tax on soda and other sugary soft drinks.

Several years ago a similar tax was proposed in France which would almost triple VAT tax on junk food. Although France is the slimmest nation in Europe (followed by Italy) the French feel that it's a mistake to be complacent on the issue. Obesity needs to be addressed before it becomes a problem.

Effective next month Romania will be the first country to begin imposing a junk food tax. Fast foods, snacks, potato chips, soft drinks and the cake and candy making industry all will be taxed.
The proceeds of the tax will go towards funding health programs in the country.

Similar taxation proposals are being discussed in a variety of other countries and Taiwan plans to carry through on a junk food tax. Apparently 25% to 30% of Taiwanese children are now obese. The Bureau of Health Promotion is currently drafting the proposal and the tax should go into effect in early 2011. Taiwan is also planning to ban junk food ads on television.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Elevation Burger - An Organic Fast Food Burger Chain

It sounds like a contradiction in terms, but there really is an organic fast food burger chain: Elevation Burger. The company is a sustainable burger chain serving only organic products. Hamburger meat comes from fresh USDA certified organic beef that is never frozen and ground daily on-site. Elevation's cows are grass-fed, free range, aren't given hormones & antibiotics and are free of pesticides and other chemicals.

Elevation also serves fresh cut fries cooked in olive oil, vegan and veggie burgers, great shakes and other beverages.
The company was founded in northern Virginia in 2005 by the husband and wife team, Hans and April Hess. Elevation has expanded into other states including Florida, Texas New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. A few days ago it was announced that, with the help of Kuwaiti-born investment banker Ali Ashkanani, the first international expansion is now underway, beginning with a store in Kuwait targeted for mid-2010 and then expansion to additional locations in the Middle East.
How this expansion plan will pan out remains to be seen as a hands-on, controlled management system will be necessary to ensure that product remains rigidly organic and adheres to the sustainability philosophy that Elevation Burger has embraced. A risk with rapid expansion is that it can be difficult to oversee individual locations, particularly in a foreign market.
Hopefully the organic and sustainable nature of the company will not be compromised as Elevation Burger grows.
With any luck we'll see Elevation Burger expand into western Europe and into Italy. How fitting it would be as it was here in Italy, almost a quarter of a century ago, that the SlowFood movement began as a response to the expansion of McDonalds into Italy. If Elevation Burger opens here maybe we can take it as a sign that the food industry is coming full circle and that the Slow Food movement is finally having an impact.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sauteed Red Cabbage

My garden is exploding with winter vegetables and I seem to have more cabbage, of all kinds, than anything else. As simple as it is, the best way to prepare cabbage is saltata in padella: sauteed until tender crisp with garlic, red onion, hot pepper and olive oil.

The result is a colorful, flavorful and healthy side dish that complements just about anything else being served.

Add some cubed potatoes to the mixture and you have a full meal all by itself.