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Editor's Note |

Why the Cost of Fast Food Matters

Mitchell H. Katz, MD
JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):442. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13875.
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Readers may justifiably wonder why the Editors chose this article for publication in a clinical journal. After all, as clinicians we are hardly in a position to influence the price of fast food.

However, obesity is a serious problem among our patients, and we have few good clinical interventions. We want our patients to make good food choices. None of us want to nag or to live in a “nanny” state where food choices are legislated. Rather, as we say in public health (and at home), we want the healthful choice to be the easy choice.


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Submit a Comment
End bad subsidies first
Posted on March 7, 2014
David L. Keller, MD, FACP
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
Libertarians will fully support the call by Dr. Katz to end government subsidies that artificially lower the cost of unhealthy \"foods\" like corn syrup. Let's try that step first, and assess what it accomplishes, before proceeding to the second step he mentioned, which is new government subsidies for healthy foods, like fruits, nuts, whole grains and fresh vegetables. Step 2, meritorious though it might seem, will lose the libertarians, who believe that any interference in free markets has unintended adverse consequences. For example, nobody likes corn syrup, which is an inferior sweetener compared with cane sugar according to chefs and food manufacturers. The only reason corn syrup exists is because government subsidies, import quotas and price supports for cane sugar have raised its price artificially high. Subsidies for healthy foods will create preposterous distortions, as the purveyors of the worst foods race to pay off legislators to define their products as \"healthy\". Since obesity rates rise with poverty levels in America, perhaps prohibitions could be placed on purchasing junk food with food stamps.
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