Twinkie lovers can thank U.S. taxpayers for helping keep the price down on their sweet treat. To show how that works, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) has published a new report: Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food. It argues what critics have been saying for a long time: “Americans’ tax dollars are directly subsidizing junk food ingredients.”
According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2011 Farm Subsidy Database, Americans forked over $261.9 billion between 1995 and 2010. Huge industrial farms benefited most from this largesse, with 74% of the subsidies going to 4% of U.S. farmers. Commodity subsidies gobbled up $167.3 billion. Some of the money went to dairy and livestock operations, but the largest share was spent for corn and soybeans.
According to the USPIRG report, most of the U.S. corn and soybean harvests end up as “additives like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and vegetable oils that provide a cheap dose of sweetness and fat to a wide variety of junk food products.” Apples to Twinkies blames these manufactured ingredients and the subsidies that support them for contributing to the obesity epidemic.
As a cultural icon, Twinkies are a good illustration. With at least 14 of 37 ingredients made with federal subsidies, “Twinkies are sweet, fatty, and calorie-rich but utterly lacking in nutritional value. And they’re cheap, too, in part because consumers have already made a down payment on many of the ingredients with their tax dollars.”
Photo credit: Photo from Christian Cable via Flickr Creative Commons
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