Why I no longer worry about side-plate food

February 25, 2005

It is five years since the fight against passive eating began way back in 2005. With the conquest of the cigarette well in hand in the late Nineties, American health reformers' attention turned to the next treatable threat to immortality: obesity.

It was recognised that eating could not be eliminated altogether, so the declared aim was to reduce it substantially.

Two factors that encouraged eating were isolated in research literature.

People consume more when food is palatable and when they are with other people. The solution seemed simple: reduce palatability and social eating, hence limiting the obesity-promoting effect of passive eating or side-plate food.

February 28, 2005 :The anti-eating movement begins. A committee of economists constructs a model showing the practicality of government action.

The economists calculate that a switch to an unpalatable diet, consumed only in private, would cause the average American to live at least one month longer.

They also note that if all food were taken as nutrient pills, we would save 1,217 days each for worthwhile activities such as watching football, stamp collecting or working.

March 22 : A National Academy of Sciences report highlights the dangers of side-plate food.

May 12 : The Food and Drug Administration requires supermarkets to place palatable foods on hard-to-reach top shelves, to be sold only on request to adults with proper ID.

June 5 : All foods required to carry a statement that eating may be hazardous to health. Bolder type used on palatable foods.

October 28 : California passes a local ordinance requiring all restaurants to reserve a section for the eating of unpalatable foods.

November 11 : All corporations with government contracts required to serve unpalatable food in their cafeterias and provide areas for individual, unobserved eating.

January 1, 2006 : Eaters Anonymous, aided by the food industry, attacks the scientific basis of the anti-eating movement but cannot stem the tide.

March 21 : The US Chamber of Commerce provides subsidies to encourage the replacement of Asian, Mexican and Italian restaurants with British restaurants.

March 28 : California requires all public buildings to convert 50 per cent of toilet stalls to private eating chambers. With reduced intake, people need fewer toilets, they reason.

May 15 : Airlines announce that they will continue to serve unpalatable food.

September 12 : The Society for the Attenuation of Passive Eating (Sape) lobbies for, and gets, federal legislation banning food preparation, display or consumption in public.

March 26, 2007 : Environmentalists, having halted deforestation, campaign for the replacement of new food with "used" (recycled) food, which is both unpleasant and environmentally sound, enabling them to reclaim forests from farmland.

May 20 : The California legislature, lobbied by environmentalists, requires 25 per cent of food served at any restaurant to be used. It later emerges that this was already the case.

October 16 : The total weight of the US population has dropped by 72,000 tons.

November 4 : Unregulated eating emporia begin to line the Canadian and Mexican borders with the US.

June 3, 2008 : Kraft foods buys BMW as a hedge against declining food popularity.

December 31 : The US leads the world with largest increase in longevity - and largest decrease in quality of life.

December 31, 2009 : The problem is declared "licked" by Sape, which now turns its attention to the health risks of sleeping. Its studies indicate that 70 per cent of people die in their sleep.

This is an abridged version of an article published in the American Psychological Society's Observer .

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