The scent of baked goods wafts towards you as the supermarket doors glide open.
Your stomach rumbles and your mouth waters at the sight and smell of so much food.
Approximately 40,000 products are available in an average North American supermarket.
Despite your best intentions, you succumb to the deals and offers that you don't really need. Hey, why not get two bags of chips for the price of one? Before you know it, your shopping cart is full and that chocolate bar you grabbed at the checkout is in your mouth.
One bar won't hurt, right?
If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. It is now widely accepted that we are living in a food environment that does not value health.
Attempts to restructure our 'obesogenic' food environment for health are often criticized as restricting personal choice and freedom. But experts warn we should think twice
This 'obesogenic environment' does not provide a set of rules to ensure easy and equitable access to healthy, affordable food. And evidence is mounting that some foods, particularly those high in fat, salt and sugar, are not easy to resist.
Food addiction actually shares common brain activity with alcohol addiction. And these high-fat, high-sugar foods also tend to be cheap and readily available, and strongly linked with chronic disease.
This unhealthy food culture permeates society, something we have explored through research at Dalhousie University. Our current food environment sets us up for healthy food choice failure. Yet when we overeat and weight gain ensues, society is there to dole out blame and shame for our 'crime.'
Is this entrapment?
Blame and shame for unhealthy behaviours occur because obesity is often framed as an issue of personal responsibility. In this narrative, we alone are responsible for what goes into our mouths. If we gain weight, it is a result of gluttony, sloth and a lack of willpower.
Any attempts to restructure our food environments so they are more supportive of health are often criticized as denying freedom of choice. Initiatives such as taxes on sugary drinks, for example, are referred to as the actions of a 'nanny state.'
Food manufacturers and retailers seem particularly fond of this argument.
They actively promote a belief that the global obesity crisis results primarily from lack of exercise ('energy-out') and deliberately minimize the impact of over-eating processed foods and drinks ('energy-in.')
But what if we reframe the debate over personal choice and collective responsibility by thinking of our modern food environment in the same way as the legal defence of criminal entrapment?
Criminal entrapment occurs when law enforcement sets people up to commit a crime they