On Monday, a state judge in Manhattan struck down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's rule capping soda sizes. And lawmakers in Mississippi are taking the backlash against government regulation on food marketing one step further.
A bill now on the governor's desk would bar counties and towns from enacting rules that require calorie counts to be posted, that cap portion sizes, or that keep toys out of kids' meals. "The Anti-Bloomberg Bill" garnered wide bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature in a state where one in three adults is obese, the highest rate in the nation.
You can complain about the nanny state all you want, but the fact is, the playing field is not fair when it comes to junk food. And we're not doing enough to combat an industry that is spending unthinkable amounts of money to keep us hooked on large quantities of its product. A character in Cory Doctorow's novel Makers points out that it's not like all of a sudden an entire generation of Americans just stopped exercising their willpower:
We didn't get less willful in the last fifty years. Might as well say that all those people who died of the plague lacked the willpower to keep their houses free of rats. Fat isn't moral, it's epidemiological.
An entire generation wasn't suddenly born with an inability to push away from the dinner table. As the junk food industry moves into developing markets, the people in those developing markets become more obese. This has been proven time and time again. It's what Michael Moss's excellent book Salt Sugar Fat is all about. Did the citizens of Mexico and Brazil and China just suddenly happen to lose their will power at the exact same time that junk food companies moved into their countries? How many coincidences have to happen before it's a pattern?
I don't think we should ban junk food. But I do think we should make sure people are informed about the decision they're making when they buy junk food. I think it's hard to find a down side to Washington State's law that demands chain restaurants to list the calories of each item on the menu. I think it's perfectly okay to require corporations to control the portions of their junk food. I think a person is less likely to buy, say, four 16 ounce sodas, rather than one 64-ounce cup from 7-11. I think that's human nature. I don't see a problem with what Bloomberg is trying to do in New York City, and I think that his soda law will eventually be the law of the land in most of the United States, the way cigarettes are taxed and regulated just about everywhere now. But I think there are going to be a hell of a lot more dumbshit maneuvers like this Mississippi law between now and then.