"These subsidies are all the more egregious at a time when America is facing an obesity epidemic," researchers said in the report. "With over 31 percent of the adolescent population now overweight or obese …it is absurd that the federal government continues to finance the production of sweeteners and oil additives."
The direct subsidies aren't the only way the government is subsidizing the creation and sale of these products. Under the current tax code, companies can deduct "reasonable and necessary" marketing and advertising expenses from their income taxes. A practice some lawmakers want to end for companies that advertise and sell unhealthy food linked child to obesity—which has doubled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Just last week, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced a bill that would do away with this ad tax deduction for companies that are marketing food of "poor nutritional quality" to children under 14-years-old. The bill requires the nonprofit Institute of Medicine to identify which foods would be considered "unhealthy." And revenue generated by the legislation would be directed to the Department of Agriculture's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which services fruits and vegetables to elementary students in low-income communities.
The lawmakers say their bill could reduce child obesity by 7 percent, according to an estimate published in the Journal of Law and Economics.
"Our nation is facing a childhood obesity crisis that demands our urgent attention, and one effective way of combating this epidemic is to ensure that our children are not confronted by persistent advertising from soda, snack, and candy makers," Harkin said in a statement.
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The Senators cited multiple studies linking junk food ads to obesity including one from UCLA, which concluded that commercials advertising junk food were related to obesity in children.
"While reducing obesity requires a multi-faceted approach, the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act would remove an incentive for food and beverage companies to market unhealthy food to children, and encourage them to use their creativity and resources to encourage children to make healthy eating decisions," Blumenthal said in a statement.