COMMENTARY | Monday saw a big victory for 700-calorie beverages when a judge struck down New York’s soda ban, but Mississippi has refused to take the possibility of such an outrageous affront to the freedom to be fat lying down. Even if it means lying down to get those jeans zipped shut.
In a shout of solidarity with solidly blocked arteries everywhere, the state that’s ranked first in the nation in obesity seems prepared to defend its title. Legislators passed a bill being called an “Anti-Bloomberg Law,” that would prohibit local governments in the state from regulating portion sizes, requiring that restaurants post calorie counts, or banning toys for children in meals.
Just to make sure we’re clear, they are saying that counties and municipalities cannot do those things. Not that they should. That they are prohibited.
You know. For liberty and such.
While I found the New York soda ban problematic, this polar opposite is actively harmful, as opposed to unenforceable and useless. Ignorance of anything is not civil liberty. We have no right to be ignorant.
Calorie counts are very helpful, because there are many foods densely packed with calories bathed in an aura of health. Salads, for example, can cram in way more sodium, fat and sugar than you’d expect. In some cases, you’re actually better off with a burger.
Eating well can be mysterious, misleading and confusing.
So why not help your citizens to make better choices by giving them more information? While I don’t think that legislating portion sizes works, aggressively not regulating them has its own perils. Frankly — and I can’t believe I’m writing this sentence — I believe the law should be silent when it comes to portion sizes.
Which means I don’t think it’s the best use of government money to be legislating either way on the topic. But to actively prohibit governments from taking steps that really could help their citizens to make better choices — calorie counts and banning toys in meals — is a governmental overreach all its own.
Free toys with unhealthy meals serve as a lure, bait. Once the child wants to go to the restaurant, the adults are likely to eat there as well, and they don’t give away toys at the Health Shack. I would absolutely change my choice of order if given the information that one item was much, much less healthy than I had thought. When I still ate fast food, I’d routinely check the nutritional information before I went, so at least I knew what I was getting.
What Mississippi has expressly done is take power away from the consumer, the power to make an informed choice about what she or he decides to consume. That’s not serving the interests of its constituents, more than a third of whom are 30 pounds or more overweight.
Instead, it serves the interests of the businesses who profit by keeping them that way.