Food law roundup

by Walter Olson on July 11, 2011

  • Texas legalizes sale of home-baked goods; “Mom can come out of hiding” [KLTV; @JohnWaggoner] New York regulators order Greenmarket cheese vendors to stop custom-slicing wedges for customers [Baylen Linnekin]
  • Children who take school lunch more likely to be obese than those who brown bag it [Freddoso] And is there still time to save chocolate milk? [Boston Herald on proposed Massachusetts school ban]
  • “Obesity policy” in theory: “High-calorie food is too cheap” argument of NYT’s Leonhardt is open to doubt [Josh Wright] “Is obesity really contagious?” [Zoë Pollock, The Dish] Knives out among scientists debating food causes of obesity [Trevor Butterworth, Forbes] Feds look to regulate food similarly to tobacco in hope of saving money on health care [Munro, Daily Caller]
  • …and practice: “Calorie counts don’t change most people’s dining-out habits, experts say” [WaPo, Richer/WLF] Obama nutrition campaign: eat as we say, not as we do [The Hill] Of recent USDA “recipes for healthy kids,” 12 of 15 would not have met proposed FTC ad standards [WSJ] Nanny’s comeuppance? “States rein in anti-obesity laws” [WSJ Law Blog]
  • “Food safety chief defends raw milk raids” [Carolyn Lochhead, SF Chronicle, earlier]
  • “It’s Time to End the War on Salt: The zealous drive by politicians to limit our salt intake has little basis in science” [Melinda Wenner Moyer, Scientific American]
  • After talking with experts, NYT’s Mark Bittman walks back some assertions about the European e. coli outbreak, now blamed on Egyptian fenugreek seeds [Science Mag; related, Kolata/NYT]
  • “If anything, China’s food scandals are becoming increasingly frequent and bizarre.” [LATimes]
  • Public criticism of activist food policy often calls forth a barrage of letters defending government role in diet. Ever wonder why? [Prevention Institute "rapid response" talking point campaign; how taxpayers help]

{ 14 comments }

1 William Nuesslein 07.11.11 at 10:07 am

With regards to the link to the Preventative Institute article, it is true that Public Health initiatives played a major roll in improving living stands in the 20th century, but not from seat belts which have some benefit or removal of lead from paint and gasoline, the benefits of which are almost all hype with no Science. Clean water and sewers did a lot as did vaccines. Cholera was a common threat in New York City before the Croton Dam. Abundant food and affordable electricity also helped. I really enjoy a glass of cold milk from my refrigerator. I am alive today due to the 1923 development of inject-able insulin. It drives me nuts that Naderites want to make food, electricity, and vaccines more expensive.

2 Foxfier 07.11.11 at 10:53 am

Seconding what Will said; there’s also the wider availability of medical care, and survival increases for the very young.

Safer food, fewer epidemics, less stress on the system because we have clean water, warmed and cooled homes and don’t have to do physical work as much…Heck, I bet dental improvements are a huge help!

Banning drop-side cribs and forcing 12 year olds to set in the back seat, not so much…..

3 Ron Miller 07.11.11 at 2:48 pm

Let’s assume that public opinion polls overwhelming indicate that consumers want comprehensive menu labeling.

If true, does this matter?

4 Patrick 07.11.11 at 5:37 pm

Of course it matters. That’s why McDonalds is on the verge of bankruptcy Ron. Vox populi, vox dei.

5 Bumper 07.11.11 at 8:06 pm

Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.

6 Ron Miller 07.12.11 at 7:51 am

We don’t defer to the people blindly. It is why we have a constitution and all. Sometimes the voice of the people is the voice of madness. But I saw an opinion poll that says that 83% of people favor comprehensive menu labeling. Since I don’t think there is a constitutional right to sell food and not tell us what it is, should the voice of the people matter more here. You might think it is bad for the economy, bad for these small (not really small but let’s not break the narrative) businesses. But that is just one consideration. Hillary Clinton said, “It is NOT just about the economy, stupid.” Of course, she is right.

7 Foxfier 07.12.11 at 12:44 pm

But I saw an opinion poll that says that 83% of people favor comprehensive menu labeling.

You HAVE seen the petitions to ban “Dihydrogen monoxide,” right?

Give me the money, and I can probably get an opinion poll that that says most anything. That it’s something as nebulous as “comprehensive menu labeling” would make it easier….

8 Foxfier 07.12.11 at 12:45 pm

Since I don’t think there is a constitutional right to sell food and not tell us what it is, should the voice of the people matter more here.

Is there a constitutional right to force everyone who wants to sell food to pay for what the majority wants? “Food sellers” are people too, after all, and we’re not a pure democracy where 51% can vote the other 49% into slavery.

9 Ron Miller 07.12.11 at 2:26 pm

Foxfier, you do understand the difference between a petition and a poll, right?

I don’t think you have the idea of “constitutional right” squared away, either. No one is suggesting there the federal government cannot require labeling. The question here is whether they should.

(I agree with you on loading poll questions. Still, I think – and I don’t know but I think – these polls do reflect the will of the public.)

10 Foxfier 07.12.11 at 6:06 pm

Ron-
You do understand that people are unlikely to sign a petition for something they wouldn’t support in a poll, right?

I don’t think you have the idea of “constitutional right” squared away, either. No one is suggesting there the federal government cannot require labeling.

1) You didn’t bring up if the Feds can require labeling, you brought up a possible majority desire for something as a justification for doing it.
2) You didn’t address the flip-side of your claim– you point out there’s no enumerated right to sell food without telling someone what it is; I point out that there’s no enumerated right to force someone to tell you what is in food in order to offer it for sale. Probably because the constitution didn’t touch on selling food, with or without labeling laws to be determined at a later time.
3) Might want to go easy on your high horse- you might get your nose taken off, holding it up so high. A constitutional right is one which the gov’t is not allowed to be legally denied by that government. The lack of a constitutional right to a specific thing does not automatically mean that the flip side is a right, nor does it mean the gov’t has the power to do anything that isn’t specifically protected– especially under the US constitution, with the whole delegated powers thing.

The public can will stuff all it wants– it’s one of the flaws of pure democracy, and why we aren’t one.

11 Bill Alexander 07.12.11 at 7:41 pm

The problem with believing polls is they are very subject to manipulation in how the question is ask and who is ask and when and even who is doing the asking.

12 William Nuesslein 07.13.11 at 6:11 am

The problem with polling about menu labeling is that such a requirement sounds helpful and the implementation of the program is free on the margin. The poll would be better if it asked those who believe in menu labeling to contribute to a fund a la consumer reports to finance the project. My understanding is calorie counting isn’t effective in that weight watchers programs based on measuring food intake did not work all that well.

13 Ben S 07.13.11 at 5:08 pm

[Offtopic]
Banning drop-side cribs and forcing 12 year olds to set in the back seat, not so much…..

Yes, the ban on drop-side cribs was silly. However, I’m afraid that there is good reason to put children in the back seat (assuming you agree reasonably decreasing risk is a good reason).

14 Foxfier 07.13.11 at 5:51 pm

And if you bar them from riding in vehicles at all, the risk falls even further.

Since I can’t actually read the study, but I can think of several possible flaws with the study– besides its age– it’s far from sufficient reason to enact a law.
(Including: are all the stats lumping restrained and unrestrained? [ http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4907a2.htm ] What are the numbers involved? [who isn't familiar with the "25% reduction over 5 years" type argument where there are 8 yearly cases?] Did they get raw data from USFARS, since the site doesn’t offer 0-13 as age group[s]? Has anyone done a study to double-check the USFARS data, since they don’t touch on crashes without fatality in 30 days? Given that 2/3 of child crash fatalities involve the child’s driver being drunk, how likely is another law to have any effect at all? [ http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/childpas.htm ] I’m sure others can think of good questions.)

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