La Isla Del Gordo: Puerto Rico Considers Tax For Obese Children

painting1Puerto Rico is considering an extreme response to childhood obesity: a fat tax. Sen. Gilberto Rodríguez Valle has introduced a bill to fine parents of obese children as a form of neglect. The bill suggests that fines would be imposed when the obesity is viewed as a form of neglect though that can be a very difficult line to discern.

Sen. Jose Luis Dalmau defended the fine as “necessary for society” and said that “Here in ‘La Isla del Encanto’ there are no consequences, . . . The obese child is a health problem that can become a financial burden because the child can develop diabetes, heart ailments and other diseases.”

There is little disagreement over the crisis with obesity generally or the harmful effects of obesity. However, the bill would have education officials to identify obese children and confront parents. If there is no improvement in six months, the child would be referred to child-family services authorities as one involving abuse or mistreatment. After six month, the parents would be subject to up to $500 in fines that would increase after another six months to $800.

Child advocates and health professionals oppose the bill because of the underlying medical issues and genetic factors. However, the politicians want to convert this health and parental issue into a legal one.

I understand the motivation given the harmful effect on these children and the fact that some parents continue to supply high-fat diets to children, particularly from fast-food establishments. There can be no serious debate over officials raising the issue with parents and seeking to educate them on options or approaches. However, the threat of a fine seems unlikely to be the type of motivation that will make a difference. It will also hit lower income families more severely since obesity has been shown in higher percentages in lower income brackets. Finally, the line between familial habits and genetic dispositions is difficult for experts to discern. It will be even more difficult for educational or child welfare officials to discern.

What do you think?

85 thoughts on “La Isla Del Gordo: Puerto Rico Considers Tax For Obese Children”

  1. Karen S,
    Regarding Gleaning Societies: what a fantastic idea! I will look into them. In our area I have not heard of the food pantries or emergency food locations doing anything with fresh, real food. Maybe they don’t need it donated by congregations because they have other sources. I know some places will go to wedding receptions and take the leftover food to homeless shelters. Maybe some of the farmers market vendors donate their “seconds”.

  2. Paul C … you know I have to appreciate the Scottsdale Arabian show(s), especially now that they include performance events. My first horse was an Arabian named “Amador” who taught me more than I ever taught him. He opened up a world to me that I have relished ever since. Enjoy the show(s).

  3. Paul – you are so lucky you live in AZ. I’ve always wanted to see the Scottsdale show. One of our friends has been very successful at that show.

    1. Karen and Aridog – not sure if we are going this year, but still might. It is on for two weeks. Next couple of weeks we have obligations and double obligations.

      The show is great, regardless of when you go. Any class you see is fun. And the barn visits are the best. Oh, and the exhibit halls are outstanding. Half the show is there. 🙂

  4. PR – look up Gleaning Societies. They harvest leftover produce from private and commercial orchards, gardens, and fields. Then they donate those fresh foods to food pantries.

  5. DBQ:

    “Besides the fact that we really don’t know what actually causes obesity in many cases, the nutrition nazis have been proven wrong over and over again in what we should eat and should not eat. They pushed this high carb low fat diet upon us and lo and behold… seems to be one of the possible causes of obesity.”

    Amen. We need better education, not yet another law to fine or harm people.

    And when we’re better educated, we need to stop thinking it’s OK to target overweight people. My 4 year old already knows never to call anyone “fat” or comment about someone’s weight. Maybe he should speak to the government.

    I cut out grains, processed foods, and sugar, while not being obsessive about it, and that last bit of “baby weight” just melted right off without my even trying. I ate meat, fish, poultry, and other protein, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, and basically anything that was “real food”, and drank mostly tea and water, and I began to feel great. Now I treat those off-limit foods as special treats, really enjoy them when I have them, and it makes zero difference to my weight because my diet overall is healthy.

    It’s a bad idea for government to determine what and how we should eat, considering they had it completely wrong for decades with the food pyramid. It is especially bad to tax or fine people because they are not doing it the government way. Consider this – the government is mandating that 2% or less milk be served in schools, at the same time that studies reveal that nonfat milk is unhealthy, full of oxidized cholesterol, and was historically used to fatten hogs. This also does not take into account the fact that many kids are at a healthy weight, and don’t NEED to go on a diet.

    PR – thanks for sharing the kale recipe. I’ll have to try it. Kale is a challenge to me.

  6. When Chris Christie is President we will be having this conversation about Fatsos every day. London Bridge has fallen down and moved to Arizona. So the Bridge Event in Jersey is nothing to worry about. Vote for Chris. He’s a guy one cant miss.

  7. My kids enjoy kale chips, kale in green smoothies, and I have one kale salad with currants and almonds that they like, too. (I think it is the honey-lemon-olive oil dressing). 🙂

  8. PR, no haven’t read Fat Chance, did see the video Sugar The Bitter Truth. I actually was just reading about magnesium deficiency, as I had forgotten to take my nightly magnesium for quite sometime now and was feeling increased muscle pain. I don’t get enough greens, not a fan of kale, love spinach and collard greens.

    How to get the kids to eat the Brazil nut? Coat the Brazil nut in some dark chocolate. I make chocolate bark with a big of coconut oil, and some 70 % dark chocolate, melt it add the chopped walnuts, oh my gosh delicious. I have snuck all sorts of veggies in muffins for the grandkids. They love my squash muffins, with dark chocolate chips and cranberries. I use a tiny bit of real molasses, of honey and I mean tiny.

  9. Here’s some “candy” for you, Inga:

    Magnesium deficiency secondary to decreased intake in obese children. Sadly, it is not surprising in the least. High magnesium foods are things like kale and spinach. It would probably help not only prevent type II diabetes in obese kids, but help prevent the metabolic problems that can lead to obesity.

    Now, considering about 50% of kids below the poverty line are overweight or obese, how do we get those Brazil nuts, spinach, and kale into them (the canned stuff is nasty) since shelf-stable foods aren’t known for their high magnesium or selenium content??? Food pantries do not typically hand out bunches of kale. 🙁

  10. Inga,
    Ooo, a study! 🙂 Like dangling a piece of candy…

    A Brazil nut would be a great start, then some kale. I think magnesium is likely a problem, as well.

    I’ve read both books, too. I liked Good Calories, Bad Calories more than Why We Get Fat. GC,BC was meatier, no pun intended, really. 🙂 Have you read Fat Chance or watched Sugar: The Bitter Truth?

  11. Here is a study about low levels of selenium in childhood obesity. Give a chubby kid a Brazil nut daily?

    PR, I’ve read both Taubes books a few years ago. We’ve learned even more about metabolism in the last few years, exciting things on the horizon in the world of nutrition.

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