Government imposed regulations on the marketing of alcohol to young people have been quite effective, but there is no such approach to sugar-laden products. Even so, the city of San Francisco, California, recently banned the inclusion of toys with unhealthy meals such as some types of fast food. A limit — or, ideally, ban — on television commercials for products with added sugars could further protect children’s health.
To start, [the Food and Drug Administration] should consider removing fructose from the Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) list, which allows food manufacturers to add unlimited amounts to any food. Opponents will argue that other nutrients on the GRAS list, such as iron and vitamins A and D, can also be toxic when over-consumed. However, unlike sugar, these substances have no abuse potential. Removal from the GRAS list would send a powerful signal to the European Food Safety Authority and the rest of the world.
This is one of a few regular frameworks floating around in nutrition policy to reduce the consumption of unhealthy food that would take a cue from policy successes in separate arenas. A paper in the New England Journal of Medicine last fall suggested a “cap and trade” approach, where regulators would set a cap on the amount of “Ingredients such as salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats,” theoretically driving up the price of such products. Denmark, meanwhile, recently went forward with an across-the-board tax on foods with high fat contents.
(h/t: Aaron Carroll)