It’s best known as a marketing tactic in the technology business, but it works more widely too, notes Julie Gunlock in her new book From Cupcakes To Chemicals: How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How To Fight Back (Independent Women’s Forum). From Angela Logomasini’s review:
In the world of politics, the tactic has also become a proven strategy for alarmists, such as the “food nannies, health, environmental, anti-chemical activists,” whose fear mongering leads politicians to the conclusion that “something must be done,” Mrs. Gunlock observes. Usually that something involves regulation that comes at the expense of consumer freedom.
Photo via David Boaz. We’ve been covering the Mardi Gras King-cake-figurine-liability issue at Overlawyered for years.
Bill Marler, the ubiquitous food-poisoning lawyer, argues that in undertaking to “audit” food distributors’ safety practices, the Santa Maria, Calif.-based firm assumes legal duties that extend to the general public at risk for foodborne illness. [Lora Abcarian, Produce News]
More than a thousand local businesses have sprung up following California’s legalization of at-home foodmaking for sale. One of them is Mark Stambler’s reopened Pagnol Boulanger, which authorities had raided and shut down the day after the Los Angeles Times profiled its French bread. [Nick Sibilla, Forbes] Effort underway to expand cottage food law in Virginia [Baylen Linnekin]
Chefs “hate” the idea of using gloves or tongs on everything, says the L.A. Times, and the epic volume of plastic disposables that will have to be run through daily will make a bad joke out of the bag bans popular in the state, but the legislature was unswayed:
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that made changes to the California Retail Food Code in an effort to curtail foodborne illnesses, and those changes include a law that says “food employees shall not contact exposed, ready-to-eat food with their bare hands.”
That means cooks must wear single-use gloves or use utensils when handling food such as sushi, bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and any cooked components of dishes that will be plated for customers.
Some opinions from Twitter:
P.S. Cookery writer Michael Ruhlman has more to say here (“at any busy restaurant, my experience has been that the cooks’ hands are the cleanest in the place. You’re more likely to pick up germs from the waiter’s hand that sets your plate before you — but you don’t hear the legislators clamoring for this.”)
Will California drive manufacturing of sriracha to Texas? [Steven Greenhut, Aaron Renn, Baylen Linnekin]
Two of my enduring interests — excessive government regulation and the quest for truly scrumptious cinnamon buns — intersect here in a single story from Denmark. [Guardian]:
…scientists have now discovered that too much of the most commonly used type of cinnamon, cassia, can cause liver damage thanks to high levels of coumarin, a natural ingredient found in the spice.
The EU has accordingly decreed that coumarin levels must be kept below 50 mg per kg in “traditional” or “seasonal” foodstuffs eaten only occasionally, and 15 mg per kg in everyday “fine baked goods.”
Last month, the Danish food authority ruled that the nation’s famous cinnamon swirls were neither traditional nor seasonal, thus limiting the quantity of cinnamon that bakers are allowed to use, placing the pastry at risk – and sparking a national outcry that could be dubbed the great Danish bake strop.
The president of the Danish Bakers’ Association, Hardy Christensen, said: “We’ve been making bread and cakes with cinnamon for 200 years. Then suddenly the government says these pastries are not traditional? I have been a baker for 43 years and never come across anything like this – it’s crazy. Using lower amounts of the spice will change the distinctive flavour and produce less tasty pastries. Normally, we do as we’re told by the government and say OK, but now it’s time to take a stand. Enough is enough.”
Meanwhile: Anonymous informant shuts down school bus cookie lady in Minneapolis suburb of Chanhassen, Minn. [MPR, AP]
Apparently following a complaint from a local restaurateur, provincial authorities have cracked down on a pay-what-you-can informal supper club organized by High River resident Paula Elliot. “AHS shut her down … informing her they don’t approve of people sharing food. They were equally heavy handed when she tried to give away edibles to stranded flood refugees at evacuation centers.” [Jen Gerson, National Post]
CBS New York reports breathlessly on underground dinner parties in New York — people invite strangers into their homes! And charge them money! — and quotes an ex-official who says it should be illegal unless they get a restaurant-type license. [CBS New York (auto-plays video ad), Shackford] Radley Balko, on Twitter: “Reporter astonished that New Yorkers invite people into their homes for dinner without notifying the local politburo.” More: J.D. Tuccille.
I’m back from a speaking swing through Nebraska. At the University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln, I spoke about food and drink paternalism as exemplified by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiatives in New York, with Prof. Steven Willborn providing a counterpoint from a more liberal perspective. At Creighton University Law School in Omaha, I spoke (as I often do) on the ideological state of the law schools, drawing on my 2011 book Schools for Misrule, with commentary from Profs. Ralph Whitten and Sara Stadler.
Both events were well attended but I was especially pleased at the strong turnout for the talk in Lincoln on food and the nanny state, a new speech I hadn’t tried out before on a general audience. Here’s a description:
The public is increasingly in revolt against “nanny state” interventions, from Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to limit soda sizes in New York, to efforts to ban Happy Meals in San Francisco. Some thinkers dismiss concern about paternalism as merely trivial and personal, not on a par with issues acknowledged as “serious” such as police abuse, free speech, surveillance, and the proper functioning of the legal system. Left unchecked, however, the project of paternalism quickly generates very serious problems in each of those other areas: it gives police and enforcers great arbitrary power, hands a special government megaphone to some speakers while stifling others, funnels uncomfortably personal information into government hands, and fuels abusive litigation. No matter what you think of potato chips, if your interests are in liberty and good government, you should be paying attention.
I’m next scheduled to speak on the food police Sept. 23 at a Heritage Foundation panel discussion with Baylen Linnekin, Nita Ghei, and J. Justin Wilson, hosted by Daren Bakst. Details here. More on my fall speaking schedule here.
When Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, some (I included) warned that it would lay serious regulatory burdens on small producers and distributors of food, threatening to drive many of them out of markets even when their products posed no actual material risk. Lawmakers gestured toward relief for small producers in an amendment, but apparently “gestured” is the operative word. “Now that those who will be regulated under the Act have had time to review and consider the FDA’s proposed FSMA rules, small farmers …are panicking. And with good reason.” [Baylen Linnekin, Reason, earlier; Daren Bakst, Heritage; "New federal regulations could threaten local farms," Michael Tabor and Nick Maravell, The Gazette (suburban Maryland)]