(July 17) To take a contrary view, I can’t see why the fruit and vegetable industry is so reluctant to go after a “fat tax.” Why not encourage the government to slap on a Twinkie tax or a Super-Gulp surcharge?

Why can’t we use economic disincentives to keep Americans from blowing up on powdery white donuts? What would be an additional 5 cents on a 99-cent five-pack of Little Debbies?

We have no such crisis of conscience on the issue of taxes on alcohol or cigarettes.

Please, no hysteria about the loss of personal freedom arising from such a tax. Americans are taxed nine ways to Sunday as it is. Have you kept track of the quarter-cent school sales tax you paid this morning, or the national and state gasoline taxes of around 20 cents per gallon you put on your debit card? One more modest tax that could generate health benefits to Americans and relieve future medical costs is a small price to pay.

Among others, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has increased its call for “city, state or federal taxes on soft drinks and foods high in calories, fat or sugar.” The CSPI’s Michael Jacobson correctly observes that legislatures have long levied taxes on products deemed to be unhealthful.

As it stands now, fat is the new tobacco. The environmental activist group Worldwatch Institute now recommends worldwide taxes on high calorie foods.

A May New York Times article reports Texas and California are moving toward phasing out junk food in schools, as are many school districts in other states.

One California legislator, a Democrat, says there is a strong link between heavy soft drink consumption and findings in a recent survey that 30% of California students are overweight, 77% are out of shape and 98% have diets that fall short of national nutritional standards. The legislator had suggested a soda tax of 2 cents per can, but that was withdrawn after she was unceremoniously browbeaten by talk radio reactionaries.

Clearly, the U.S. is too big for its britches; about 60% of Americans weigh too much. You know who you are; that guy who used to wear jeans with a 32-inch waist now strains to fit into a 40.

It’s not because of the broccoli.

Although the produce industry knows Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables, most Americans apparently haven’t bought into that conviction. Produce contributes fiber and nutrients and can stave off serious diseases. Meanwhile, millions of American youth are pushing E5 on the vending machine, adding “fat-free” Twizzlers into a sugar-crazed diet.

A human can eat only so much per day. The reason more people aren’t eating more fruits and vegetables is because they are snacking on Snickers, munching on Bugles and overloading on french fries.

True, by opposing the fat tax, it is possible the fruit and vegetable industry can reap some advantages. Industry lobbyists are certainly less likely to receive the cold shoulder from other food industry leaders when it comes to mustering political support on produce industry issues, for one thing.

The might and fury of the food industry, which a May 20 New York Times article said spends $30 billion a year on promotions, also would be averted. In addition, snack food companies may be motivated to provide substantial support for fruit and vegetable promotions. A joint promotion for Oreos and oranges, perhaps.

The article points out a similar dichotomy in public school districts.

Schools receive money from vendors who are selling fattening food so they can promote activities to keep them healthy, including camping trips and sports.

Additionally, it seems part of the fear of advocating a tax on junk food is that the gun will next be pointed at fruits and vegetables. That may or may not be a valid concern. It is difficult to envision a scenario in which fruits and vegetables would be singled out for punitive treatment on the basis of its nutritive value. “This fruit has too much vitamin C; you’ll pay, by God!”

There is one danger in opposing a fax tax. At the end of the day, if it does happen, the industry will want to be the first in line to benefit from it. That is hypocritical.

Why not advocate a modest “fat tax” on packaged foods that assist in promoting a healthful eating message? A big part of that message would no doubt include the importance of fruits and vegetables.

It would create a double benefit. One, it would discourage consumption of high fat/high sugar food. Two, the money could be used to promote a healthful eating message.

If the industry is uncomfortable in taking that radical position, then by all means it needs to support efforts to get junk food out of schools and get produce in.

America has a problem. And it’s not because of the broccoli.