- The Washington Times - Monday, February 13, 2012

Mary Poppins, call your office. That spoonful of sugar might make the medicine go down, but it also makes the weight go up and should be kept away from kids - or so say sugar nannies sprinkled across the country. While some simply frown upon consumption of the sweet stuff, the more ambitious want it outlawed entirely. Americans ought to tell these busybodies to keep their sticky fingers off our fridges before the land of the free dissolves into the land of the sugar-free.

Governing bodies from coast to coast have mounted campaigns to convince the public that sugar is dangerous and, in sufficient quantities, even poisonous. New York City’s Department of Health has funded a 30-second TV commercial called “Don’t drink yourself fat,” featuring a man gulping gobs of fat from a soda can. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health features a short video on its website showing a soda pouring into a glass, with the liquid morphing into sugar packets. The accompanying text reads, “You wouldn’t eat 22 packs of sugar. Why are you drinking them?”

Sugar-caused obesity is developing into a full-fledged health scare. The substance takes many forms, but most reviled are table sugar and corn syrup, the kind most often used to sweeten soft drinks. Often forgotten amid the anti-sugar surge is that it’s essential for life. The human body breaks down all forms of sugar into glucose, which serves as the primary fuel for cells.

In California, activist scientists are proposing that sugar be treated as a controlled substance like alcohol and tobacco. They insist on banning the sale of sugary drinks to consumers under age 17. “We are in the midst of the biggest public health crisis in the history of the world,” says Dr. Robert Lustig, a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco. “And nobody even gets it. Nobody understands how important this is because they don’t consider it ‘public health.’ They consider it ‘personal responsibility.’ “

To be sure, when 30 percent of the adult population is obese, there’s genuine cause for concern. But there’s no provision in the Constitution for lawmakers to reclassify an ingredient essential for life as an illegal substance. Individuals consider their choice of foods a matter of “personal responsibility” because it is.

Fed up with anti-sugar overreach, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, Tennessee Republican, last month introduced the Protecting Foods and Beverages From Government Attack Act, which would prohibit the use of federal money for “scare campaigns” targeting products legally sold under federal law. Dr. DesJarlais, a physician, says $230 million in stimulus funds were misused to pay for ads attacking soft drink companies.

Walmart, the nation’s largest food retailer, has devised its own free-market nutrition guide without interference from the food police. The company attaches “Great for You” labels on food products that meet its healthy, low-cost criteria. The green-and-white stickers appear on about 20 percent of the company’s Great Value products.

If Mary Poppins represents an old-fashioned approach to sweeteners, the sugar nannies symbolize today’s equally unpalatable position. Americans should seek the sweet spot of moderation in their food choices that enhances a healthy lifestyle without sacrificing their constitutionally protected refrigerator freedom.

The Washington Times