Friday is national Doughnut Day (or “donut” if you’re a Dunkin’ loyalist). Celebrated the first Friday of June, it might seem like a simple promotion or an excuse to indulge, but it has serious roots in American history. The holiday was created in 1938 by the Salvation Army to honor those who distributed doughnuts to soldiers on the front lines during World War I. At the time, the doughnut was a novelty to most Americans, but it quickly became a breakfast staple. For some, this fried pastry conveys something about the American spirit of independence and resilience. For others, it is public enemy number one.
Today, we’ve got a full-time “food police”—an array of bureaucrats, lawmakers, and public health advocates—going after doughnuts or other tasty treats with taxes, laws, and brute force, all in the name of fighting obesity. These self-appointed guardians’ ultimate goal is to coerce us into making choices they deem “nutritionally correct.”
Government meddling in Americans’ diet choices continues to mount, at all levels of government—from restaurant calorie labeling mandates to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control’s misguided war on salt to “sin taxes” on politically disfavored food and drinks. San Francisco has even banned toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals!
Most recently, the FDA issued a proposed rule to create a de facto ban on artificial trans fats added to foods, despite the fact that food manufacturers have virtually eliminated trans fats from the market over the last decade and consumers have voluntarily reduced consumption from an average of 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram in 2012. While there’s no scientific research on the health effects of trans fat consumption at these low levels, the FDA regulators seem to believe they still need to step in and ban the additive.
Never mind that trans-fats became popular, in products like shortening and margarine, after government entities vilified saturated fat as a driving cause of heart disease, a hypothesis that is now largely disproven. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary recommendations starting in the 1980s, which emphasized a low-fat high-carb diet, may have played a significant role in the obesity epidemic regulatory busybodies are now trying to solve.
While almost any food can be toxic, even water if you drink enough, the inverse is also true. Just about any food can be part of a healthy diet—even the occasional donut. It should be up to each individual to determine what is best for his or her own diet.
So, while you still can, have two donuts this Friday: one for yourself, and one for your freedom.
Michelle Minton is a Fellow in Consumer Policy Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.