4

votes

Is it ethical to sell unhealthy foods to others?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 22, 2010 at 2:50 PM

There's an event coming up at which I was thinking about selling homemade strawberry preserves to raise some money for a project*. They would be preservative-free and "natural," but they would also have a bucketload of sugar, that being an essential part of what they are. I'm not really interested in experimenting with xylitol or stevia for this project.

I'd also thought about selling baked goods in other situations, which I was/am quite handy with before wheat and I decided to see other people.

This has got me to thinking. We all agree it's unethical to sell explicitly poisonous food to people. But as people who are pretty convinced that sugar is Really Not Good, would it be unethical for someone existing in the ancestral health paradigm to sling a sugar-filled product to others?

*It's a special showing of The Blob for this periodic movie screening thing I help run, so the strawberry preserves are sort of a joke riffing off of the Blob's appearance; this makes selling, say, saeurkraut instead not really an option.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on November 01, 2011
at 02:08 AM

I've never tried it with honey. Good idea. Thanks.

9d741bcbe702044635f2ce3078043054

(1435)

on October 31, 2011
at 10:27 PM

I disagree. There are lots of things I would not eat that are perfectly fine for someone else to eat.

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on October 31, 2011
at 10:02 PM

Not necessarily a good litmus test. If your semi-bad food (strawberry jam) supplants a much more harmful food (say, a donut) that your customer would have eaten in its stead, then you have done net good.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on August 23, 2010
at 10:57 AM

Guacamole = Blob

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 22, 2010
at 09:35 PM

Panna Cotta is another good option for a blob-like food.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on August 22, 2010
at 03:31 PM

Just saw your answer. I agree with you. I would not feed my family anything that I would not eat myself, especially if they had health issues. But personally, I'm fine with eating home-made preserves on occasion, in small quantities. I eat dark chocolate from time to time, and it has sucrose in it. If I had a diabetic family member come over, I would probably hide it, though.

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14 Answers

6
77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on August 22, 2010
at 03:25 PM

As long as you don't put partially hydrogenated oils or lead or anything poisonous in it, I say go for it.

I think that there is a place in the world for foods that are not entirely optimal, but nonetheless fine in small quantities in the context of a healthy diet.

It is not your responsibility to produce or sell items that would be maximally healthy for everyone, even if such a thing existed. It's not your responsibility to make sure that they consume your preserves in small quantities, or that their diets aren't already heavily skewed toward carbohydrates.

I don't have a big libertarian bent like some people on here, who will tell you "let people make their own choices on everything." I'm not against the idea of a soda tax, for example. But in your case, I think you are providing a genuine food that people can reasonably enjoy, whether as part of a healthy diet or a standard crappy diet.

The slippery slope of arguing that this is unethical is pretty absurd... is it ok for you to screen your movie? They'll probably be sitting during that time, which will shorten their hip flexors and depress their metabolisms, and the movie itself will depress their neurological activity, thus making them less healthy and possibly decreasing their quality of life in future years, and negatively affecting the epigenetic outcomes for their grandchildren. Shame on you for offering any activity that isn't maximally healthy! ;)

Unlike the libertarians, however, I would draw the line somewhere before "anything goes and let people do what they want with their lives." I think it's unconscionable to sell things with trans fats in them, for example.

5
1f70da0b737e9c6e7679a248f4228a01

on August 23, 2010
at 08:09 AM

I refuse to serve garbage to people I care about.

Beyond that, I go by my gut instinct. For instance, I'm a teacher, and I refuse to use lollies anymore as prizes or treats during class parties. I've become that teacher who brings mini quiches to class parties. And my tray is always empty at the end of the party, leaving me to clean up half-finished bags of chips, soft drinks, and bagged candies. However, sometimes I'm stuck without prizes, or am not in charge of buying them, and it's either candy or no prize at all. It's tricky. Personalised gifts are more expensive, but they're more appreciated, last forever, and don't irritate my sensibilities. Candy is cheap, easy to source, enjoyed in the moment, and it's not like the kids don't eat buckets of the stuff anyway.

I don't think it's a case of being ethical. Being 'Really Not Good' isn't the same as being poisonous - most paleos I know will still occasionally indulge in the RNG stuff from time to time. Vegetarians think meat is RNG, but many will still serve it if their friends really want it (and vice versa - I think veganism is RNG, but I'll still provide that option for vegan associates).

Personally, I would be making paleo food options, if I could afford to do so. You can't change the world, but people who look for sugar- and gluten-free products will appreciate your efforts.

4
E0965e067b72ea7a45d6fad6f164e132

on August 22, 2010
at 09:41 PM

You need to ask yourself. Would I eat these strawberry preserves?

If yes, it is ethical.

If no, then I think you know the answer.

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on October 31, 2011
at 10:02 PM

Not necessarily a good litmus test. If your semi-bad food (strawberry jam) supplants a much more harmful food (say, a donut) that your customer would have eaten in its stead, then you have done net good.

9d741bcbe702044635f2ce3078043054

(1435)

on October 31, 2011
at 10:27 PM

I disagree. There are lots of things I would not eat that are perfectly fine for someone else to eat.

3
B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on October 31, 2011
at 09:31 PM

If you are offering a product that most people would consider part of a healthy diet, then I don't think you are doing anything unethical--especially if it is a superior product like a carefully made strawberry jam without artificial ingredients. I make reduced sugar preserves out of my homegrown organic strawberries which my father loves. I am not going to change my father's perspective about food at his age (at least not much), but he enjoys what most Americans would consider a very healthy diet and a little bit of strawberry preserves isn't going to kill him now. And I know he will eat strawberry jam on his toast whether I supply it to him or not. I feel good knowing that my jam is the healthiest jam he could possibly eat and still eat jam.

2
95f407502f92a7bc460e8f83652341de

on August 22, 2010
at 04:15 PM

Well, no experimentation needed, get some Pomona's pectin and use honey. You can use as little or much as you like w/Pomona's. I usually use a 1/4c per 6 pint batch. That was before I lost my sugar cravings. Tastes good to the average bear, and the sugar is quite minimal.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on November 01, 2011
at 02:08 AM

I've never tried it with honey. Good idea. Thanks.

1
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 23, 2010
at 07:11 AM

Why wouldn't you use Certo especially made to make sugar free jam? All you need to add is a cup of either apple or grape juice to the fruit and it will gel. I make it all the time for my family and the jam actually tastes like fruit not sugar. The colour will not stay as bright as regular jam if it stays around a long time.

1
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on August 23, 2010
at 01:29 AM

Make some seriously good Guacamole. Then they can eat good and you can feel good

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on August 23, 2010
at 10:57 AM

Guacamole = Blob

1
C0fcb48d7da4f76fac17318efd2cd6b8

on August 22, 2010
at 03:19 PM

My mother is a diabetic, and when she comes to my house, I will only feed her paleo meals. By extension, I would not, in good conscience, give or sell strangers food I would not eat myself. Personally, I don't even want to have sugar in my kitchen- to smell it or sell it or anything.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on August 22, 2010
at 03:31 PM

Just saw your answer. I agree with you. I would not feed my family anything that I would not eat myself, especially if they had health issues. But personally, I'm fine with eating home-made preserves on occasion, in small quantities. I eat dark chocolate from time to time, and it has sucrose in it. If I had a diabetic family member come over, I would probably hide it, though.

0
Medium avatar

(2301)

on October 31, 2011
at 09:47 PM

Who cares? If they'll buy it, sell it to them. Until you convert them into paleo freaks then they are just going to go eat something 100 times worse after they leave anyways. Your strawberry preserves could sadly be the healthiest thing they eat all day.

0
9e4be350e647ca4962ec77a05281b8c1

on August 24, 2010
at 01:45 AM

Fresh is best. I don't eat bread, pita, or pasta. I don't have anything to put jam on. Thank you, but I am not looking for anything to put jam on either. Sugar and salt have made many food items edible. Bread wouldn't be edible without the two. Strawberries on the other hand, can safely be frozen. That is the 'least bad' way to preserve them. That is the way I would store it for winter use. I don't think the strawberries are that great once frozen, and I'm certainly not saying a great jam isn't good. At that point it is principally sugar, with most nutrients lost in the process. On the Paleo Diet we want to eat 'the least processed food'. Jam just isn't a Paleo item. Sure you can be tempted to say, that "it is something i can indulge in for the 15% outside the Paleo Diet". Once you become a master at indulging in Paleo meals, snacks and fruit, your mind doesn't wonder as much towards preserves. If you were saying that you came up with a way to make a Paleo jam, then I would be interested.

0
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 23, 2010
at 03:29 AM

I think this is a grey area. In the end, only you can decide what you feel is right for you.

0
Bebc8909d95205d0f266c839304c7d3c

on August 23, 2010
at 02:19 AM

I think it's unethical to sell/give anything to others that you wouldn't eat yourself.

If you need something Blob-inpired, how about selling strawberry smoothies instead? You can call them Paleo Blobs. They'll be popular, delicious, and healthy.

0
154bf5c84f7bd9f52b361b45d05dbc3a

(1215)

on August 22, 2010
at 10:07 PM

Yes it's unethical.

If you don't like the fact that big businesses are selling you 'food' that is bad for you then you can't turn around and feel it's ok to do the same to other people.

0
35deb6722604c868c610088a6d8ce09e

(295)

on August 22, 2010
at 08:26 PM

I recently made strawberry jam for family/friends with handpicked strawberries and I admit, it was sometimes difficult handing an overweight family member some jam where 5 cups of strawberries were combined with 8 cups of white sugar + pectin. I also worked at a state fair one year serving full-fat soft serve ice cream to little obese kids and yeah, it's kind of a guilt trip (summer job and I was 16 years old, before I knew anything about eating healthy). In the end, I think you have to realize that you're not really an enabler in a sense that you're not forcing them to eat it, they're making that choice. I just try to tell people subtly to enjoy it (any sweets I make them) in moderation.

On another note, a few months ago I was thinking about making/selling paleo snack kit type things to paleo friends (this was before I knew about http://www.stevesoriginal.com/), but I was more worried about legal issues (business license? what if I sold them at something like a farmers market?) and food safety issues (what if I added jerky? food poisoning?), so that kind of dissuaded me. It wasn't really the same situation because dried nuts/meat/fruit can be regarded as "healthy" but even too much of those isn't good for you.

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