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“That is quite a correction in today’s Times to Mark Bittman’s column the other day about sugar and diabetes,” notes Ira Stoll. Bittman’s column began with the striking opener “Sugar is indeed toxic” and went on to promote a far-reaching regulatory crackdown on sweetened foods. But it soon came under sustained attack from various commentators (more) for misstating recent findings about the health effects of sugar in the diet; it’s true that sugar intake tends to cause obesity and obesity itself causes diabetes, but it’s a separate, unresolved question whether sugar by itself instigates diabetes through some mechanism of action not common to other highly caloric foods.

Here is the correction:

Mark Bittman’s column on Thursday incorrectly described findings from a recent epidemiological study of the relationship of sugar consumption to diabetes. The study found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher rates of diabetes — independent of obesity rates — but stopped short of stating that sugar caused diabetes. It did not find that “obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.” Obesity is, in fact, a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, as the study noted.

I’ve got a food policy roundup at Cato that tries to answer such questions as:

* Has FDA’s regulatory zeal finally met its match in the foodie zeal of cheese-makers and -fanciers who are beginning to insist on their right to make and enjoy cheeses similar to those in France, even if they pose a nonzero though tiny bacterial risk?

* How annoying is it that Mark Bittman would stop writing a great food column in the NYT in order to start writing an inevitably wrongheaded politics-of-food column?

* Is Wal-Mart secretly smiling after First Lady Michelle Obama publicly twisted its arm to do various things it was probably considering anyway, along with some things it definitely wanted to do, such as opening more stores in poor urban neighborhoods?

Related: Led by past Overlawyered guest-blogger Baylen Linnekin, Keep Food Legal bills itself as “The first and only nationwide membership organization devoted to culinary freedom.” 11 Points has compiled a list of “11 Foods and Drinks Banned in the United States.” And GetReligion.org has more on the “shadowy community of outlaw Amish and Mennonite dairy farmers” portrayed in several recent press reports.

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“Even pictures of food [at schools] have to have the federal government’s stamp of approval.” [Scott Shackford, Reason]

P.S. Speaking of marketing and paternalism, here’s Ann Althouse on the latest horrible Mark Bittman column.

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on April 29, 2013

  • Colony collapse disorder, the honeybee ailment, was expected to have a dire effect on U.S. agriculture. Market-driven adjustments have helped prevent that [Walter Thurman, PERC]
  • Adieu, Mimolette? Feds may be readying crackdown on imports of artisanal cheeses [Baylen Linnekin] “Food Safety Modernization Act Far More Costly Than Supporters Claimed” [Hans Bader, earlier here, here]
  • “There may be no hotter topic in law schools right now than food law and policy” [Harvard Law School, quoted by Baylen Linnekin] New book, haven’t seen yet: Jayson Lusk, “The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate” [Amazon]
  • Further thoughts on hot coffee injuries and lawsuits [Ted Frank]
  • The gain in plains is mainly due to grains: residents of mountains and high-altitude areas have less obesity [Edible Geography] Restaurant labeling: per one study, “some evidence that males ordered more calories when labels were present” [Tim Carney] NYT’s Mark Bittman endorses tax on prepared food [SmarterTimes] “Michael Poppins: When the nanny acquired a police force” [Mark Steyn, NR on Mayor Bloomberg]
  • Who’s demonizing Demon Rum these days, together with Wicked Wine and Baleful Beer? Check out an “alcohol policy” conference [Angela Logomasini, Open Market] Scottish government lobbies itself to be more prohibitionist [Christopher Snowdon]
  • Bill filed by Rep Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) would cut off taxpayer funding of food-bashing propaganda [Michelle Minton; earlier here, etc.]

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on March 1, 2013

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on November 16, 2012

  • Misguided USDA regs are shuttering much-admired (and safe) artisanal Denver salumeria [Baylen Linnekin]
  • “If you’re a woman and you’ve had an average of more than one drink a day, the [CDC] considers you a ‘heavy drinker.’” [Nicole Ciandella, CEI]
  • Admitting failure of idea, Denmark prepares to repeal pioneering “fat tax” [BBC] Katherine Pratt, “A Critique of Anti-Obesity Soda Taxes and Food Taxes Today in New Zealand” [TaxProf]
  • Less cooking from scratch, more empty calories because of new school lunch regs? [Lunch Tray]
  • Once we accept premise that our weight is government’s business, NYC soda ban will be just the start [Jacob Sullum] Does it go beyond legal authority of Gotham board of health? [same] Now it’s the D.C. council catching the ban-big-soft-drinks bug [WTOP]
  • Federal prosecutors’ ADA campaign vs. restaurants: not just NYC, Twin Cities too [Bagenstos, earlier]
  • Why is research and journalism on the public health aspects of nutrition so bad? [Linnekin] Speaking of which… [same] No one’s appointed Mark Bittman national food commissar, and aren’t we glad for that [Tyler Cowen] More on that [David Oliver, beginning a new series of posts on anti-food litigation]

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Notes on the election

by Walter Olson on November 7, 2012

  • Thank you, California voters, for ignoring the advice of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman and turning down Prop 37, the badly (or deliberately-badly, depending on your level of cynicism) drafted initiative on labeling of genetically modified foods.
  • Any time a political wave comes crashing in, as it did last night, you lose some outstanding candidates along with the rest. Of Republicans defeated last night, I am particularly saddened by the loss of Nan Hayworth in Westchester and by that of Richard Tisei in Massachusetts, who would have greatly improved the character of representation for the North Shore compared with the present incumbent.
  • Ten Commandments judge Roy Moore, with backing from the plaintiff’s bar, won narrow approval from Alabama voters. Three Florida high court justices with a record of tendentious rulings easily won retention, backed by a wave of money from lawyers who practice before their court. On the brighter side, top-notch Michigan Supreme Court Justice Steve Markman survived another Democratic/union attempt to oust him. So there’s that.
  • Longtime subject of Overlawyered reportage Judy Cates won the judgeship in the downstate Illinois area across from St. Louis for which the term “problem jurisdiction” might have been invented.
  • Readers bored or bothered by the same-sex marriage issue should keep scrolling: four states had it on the ballot, I was deeply involved in the campaign in my home state of Maryland, and we appear to have won in all four states.
  • Readers bored or bothered by libertarian stances should keep right on scrolling because I am also very happy about Colorado’s and Washington’s removal of criminal penalties for marijuana use and California’s modification of its draconian “Three Strikes” law;
  • One of the most curious features of the presidential contest was the way both sides by seeming consent appeared to set aside the issue of Supreme Court appointments, which never even came up at the debates. Perhaps this silence is good for the institutional interests of the Court, whose public image could use some recuperation after years of Democratic attacks over decisions like Citizens United. But it strikes me as factually inaccurate, because the differences in likely court appointments remain one of the starkest and potentially most significant differences between the candidates, and would have made one of the more compelling themes for the Romney candidacy.
  • Go Wolverines: “Michigan voters soundly defeated a measure that would have given public-sector unions a potent tool to challenge any law — past, present or future — limiting their benefits and powers.” [Shikha Dalmia, Bloomberg]
  • More post-election thoughts from Ken at Popehat.

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on October 29, 2012

  • Climate prof Michael Mann sues critics including National Review, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Mark Steyn, and Rand Simberg [Ken at Popehat, Scientific American, Ted Frank (noting Ars Technica's fair-weather disapproval of SLAPP suits), Adler and more]
  • California polls show once-massive support for Prop 37 ebbing away; is there any major newspaper in the state that likes the measure? [L.A. Times, San Jose Mercury News, San Diego U-T; earlier here, here, etc.] Views of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on the general question of genetic modification labeling [statement, PDF] Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution refutes predictably lame views of Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan (stance tactfully assessed as “mood affiliation”) and discusses the impact on pesticide use with Greg Conko; more from WLF. At least Prop 37 has Michelle Lerach, hmmm [No on 37]
  • “So the two technologies most reliably and stridently opposed by the environmental movement—genetic modification and fracking—have been the two technologies that most reliably cut carbon emissions.” [Matt Ridley, WSJ]
  • “Texas v. EPA Litigation Scorecard” [Josiah Neeley, Texas Public Policy Foundation, PDF]
  • High-visibility public chemophobe Nicholas Kristof turns his garish and buzzing searchlight on formaldehyde [Angela Logomasini, CEI]
  • Per its terms, new ordinance in Yellow Springs, Ohio, “recognizes the legally enforceable Rights of Nature to exist and flourish. Residents of the village shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights on behalf of natural communities and ecosystems.” [Wesley Smith, NRO]
  • How EPA regulates without rulemaking: sue-and-settle, guidance documents, emergency powers [Ryan Young and Wayne Crews, CEI]

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Prop 37 and GMOs, cont’d

by Walter Olson on September 20, 2012

The California proposition [earlier here, here, and here] is now running into a wave of disapproving editorials in California newspapers, including the Sacramento Bee. Tyler Cowen administers a well deserved rebuke to tendentious NYT food-policy columnist Mark Bittman [Marginal Revolution and followup] Also check out the analysis by Jonathan Adler ["How Not to Label Biotech Foods," New Atlantis] and Baylen Linnekin ["California's GMO Labeling Law Isn't the Answer," Reason] And in California Political Review, John Hrabe notes my Daily Caller piece in the course of observations about the ambition of some Californians to play regulator to the world. (& Matt Bogard)

Somewhat relatedly, it is now clear that Vitamin-A-laden golden rice could fight child blindness arising from nutritional deficiency in the underdeveloped world; alas, it’s being held back by Greenpeace anti-GMO efforts [Margaret Wente/Toronto Globe and Mail; Art Caplan, NBC]

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At the New York Times, Mark Bittman has proved a durable source of entertainment twice over, first as a purveyor of recipes with a high hit rate of being worth trying, and more recently with a laughably paternalistic opinion column. [David Boaz/Cato, Damon Root/Reason, earlier]

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Food law roundup

by Walter Olson on November 3, 2011

  • “Wisconsin Judge Rules No Right to Own a Cow or Drink Its Milk” [Food Freedom; related on demonstration at FDA]
  • We’re from the authorities, and we’re shutting down your “farm-to-fork” dinner [Amy Alkon]
  • “FTC Makes Strategic Concessions on Food/Beverage Marketing Guidelines” [Lammi, WLF]
  • Given a little humility, NYT’s Mark Bittman might have noticed that his new junk food insight contradicts his old [Jacob Sullum, Reason]
  • Urban myths about Halloween candy tampering [Free-Range Kids]
  • New Jersey lawsuit over serving of meat to devout Hindu vegetarians [Abnormal Use; compare 1999 case]
  • “First lady will achieve goal of eradicating all food deserts by 2017″ — calm down, that’s “deserts” with just the one “s” [Obama Foodorama, more, more] Premise that lack of access to fresh fruits/vegetables accounts for poor urban diet, however, is sheerest fantasy [Katherine Mangu-Ward/WaPo, earlier here and here]

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August 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 4, 2011

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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]

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March 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 21, 2011

  • “Cleveland Browns lawyer letter is apparently real” [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
  • “Headlines of the Apocalypse: ‘Lady Gaga eyes legal action over breast milk ice cream.’” [@vsalus re: Breitbart via @EdDriscoll]
  • Chesley discipline prospects in Kentucky fen-phen scandal: “King of Torts Dethroned” [Laura Simons, Abnormal Use]
  • Busy construction-defect lawyers vex Fresno builders [Bee, Business Journal]
  • “NHTSA Postpones Back-Up Camera Requirement Rule” [The Truth About Cars, earlier]
  • Lawyers in Italy call strike to protest law requiring mediation of commercial disputes [WSJ Law Blog]
  • NYT’s Mark Bittman has a magical touch with food (alas) [Patrick at Popehat]
  • Beasley Allen lawyers sluiced $850K to Alabama GOP judicial contender [Birmingham News via PoL]