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Taxpayer Subsidies for Junk Food Wasting Billions
Boston, MA – Federal subsidies for commodity crops are also subsidizing junk food additives like high fructose corn syrup, enough to pay for 19 Twinkies per taxpayer every year, according to Apples to Twinkies, a new report by MASSPIRG. Meanwhile, limited subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy less than a quarter of an apple per taxpayer.
“This spending is absurd on so many levels,” said Deirdre Cummings, legislative director for MASSPIRG. “First we are giving taxpayer subsidies to mature profitable industries while struggling with how to reduce the nation’s record level of debt. But even more outrageous is the fact that we are spending billions subsiding junk food as our childhood obesity rates are going through the roof.”
Between 1995 and 2010, American taxpayers spent over $260 billion in agricultural subsidies. Most subsidies went to the country’s largest farming operations, mainly to grow just a few commodity crops, including corn and soybeans. Among other uses, food manufacturers process these crops into additives like high fructose corn syrup and vegetable oils that provide a cheap dose of sweetness and fat to a wide variety of junk food products.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is one of 12 members appointed to the deficit reduction Super Committee which formerly started their work this week. “Eliminating taxpayer subsidies that are wasteful and make us sicker should be at the top priority of Congress,” said Cummings.
Among the report’s key findings:
• Between 1995 and 2010, $16.9 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additives - corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils (better known as hydrogenated vegetable oils). At $7.36 per taxpayer per year, that would buy each taxpayer 19 Twinkies.
• Outside of commodity crops, other agricultural products receive very little in federal subsidies. Since 1995, taxpayers spent only $262 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables. Coming to 11 cents per taxpayer per year, that would buy less than a quarter of a Red Delicious apple.
• In Boston, taxpayers give $2,118,607 each year in junk food subsidies, while only $32,778 each year for subsidies for apples. That’s enough to buy 5,575,282 Twinkies, but only 63,647 apples.
Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the last three decades, with one in five kids aged 6 to 11 now obese. Research shows that increased snacking is responsible for a significant portion of this increase.
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