Consumer group says taxpayers funding obesity

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America is growing fatter and taxpayers are funding part of the cause, according to a report released this weekby WashPIRG, an independent consumer group based in Seattle.

The organization’s “Apples to Twinkies 2013” report breaks down how billions of tax dollars end up supporting junk food through agricultural subsidies, contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic, said Micaela Preskill, an advocate for the nonprofit WashPIRG.

The public interest research group launched in 1970 with a focus on citizen activism for health and social issues.

Since 1995 the government has spent $292.5 billion on agricultural subsidies, which includes direct payment to farmers for crops that once grew on their land and crop insurance, which paid out more than $11 billion nationally last year.

Of the total amount, $19.2 billion has subsidized corn- and soy-based junk food ingredients, such as cornstarch and corn syrup that provide no nutritional value, WashPIRG said in its new report.

It is all the more egregious at a time when Americans are tipping the scale into obesity in unprecedented numbers, the authors said.

Children are three times more likely to be obese than their counterparts three decades ago and more than 31 percent of the adolescent population is now overweight or obese.

Key findings in the report found:

  • Of the total $292.5 billion allotted in agriculture subsidies, 3.8 percent of farmers collected $178.5 billion, while 62 percent of farms did not receive any federal funds.
  • Taxpayers spent $84.4 billion on corn production, $8.1 billion of which funded production of cornstarch and sweeteners. Of the total domestic corn produced, 9.6 percent ended up in junk food and beverages as sweeteners or thickeners.
  • Soy subsidies rank fifth on the list of subsidized crops, costing taxpayers $27.8 billion. Since 1995, soy oils have consumed about $11.1 billion in taxpayer subsidies.

For more information about “Apples to Twinkies 2013,” click here.

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