Saturday, September 17, 2011

VOX POPULI: From beer to snack food, moderation is key

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.
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Potato chips were the first snack food I got hooked on as a kid. Back then, those crispy treats had yet to be mass-produced by big-name companies, and I remember the name of a local company stamped on the transparent bags they came in.
The chips saw me through my high school days of cramming for university entrance exams, and then came to be paired with beer in my adult life, until I became alarmed enough by my growing weight to give them up. Unwanted blubber is the inevitable outcome of indulging oneself in the pleasure of stuffing oneself with fried munchies.
An unusual tax came into effect this month in Hungary. Called the "potato chips tax," this is apparently an attempt at improving the health of the people as well as the nation's fiscal health by taxing high-calorie products loaded with salt and sugar. The prices of snack foods and soft drinks have gone up significantly.
Where obesity is concerned, the United States, where potato chips originated, immediately comes to my mind. The abundance of cheap but nutritionally unbalanced foods is blamed for obesity among more than 30 percent of the poor in the country. To prevent their ranks from swelling, some states are considering imposing taxes on soft drinks.
Hideo Makuuchi discusses a woman "addicted" to potato chips in his book,"Potechi wo Ijo ni Taberu Hitotachi" (People who eat abnormally large amounts of potato chips) from Wave Publishers Co. The woman says she wants to "practically swallow (potato chips) down," not so much because she enjoys the taste, but more for instant pleasure. She is filled with guilt afterward.
Makuuchi blasts food makers for ruining people's normal sense of taste by deliberately overseasoning everything, from snack foods to "onigiri" rice balls sold at convenience stores, so that people become conditioned to crave such foods.
Makers blame consumers for eating more than they should, but Makuuchi asserts, "That's because the products are made to make people overeat."
By instinct, we humans crave salt, sugar and fat, and they give us pleasure and satisfaction. Children are said to be becoming prime candidates for obesity and diabetes from overeating "too tasty" foods that are reinforced with those substances.
We can enjoy each crispy chip only if we are healthy. Adults and children alike should try to eat in moderation so we won't be slapped with a new tax we don't want.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 16
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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