Remember when a lot of us predicted this would happen? And advocates were dismissive? WSJ reportage:
A federal law that aims to curb childhood obesity means that, in dozens of states, bake sales must adhere to nutrition requirements that could replace cupcakes and brownies with fruit cups and granola bars. … The restrictions that took effect in July stem from the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by first lady Michelle Obama and her “Let’s Move!” campaign. …
[The law] allowed for “infrequent” fundraisers, and states were allowed to decide how many bake sales they would have that didn’t meet nutrition standards. …
While about half the states have taken advantage of exceptions, given the political pressure, the trend is toward narrowing or eliminating them. Texas, for example, has done away with a former variance that allowed three fundraisers a year selling forbidden foods. Among the most drearily predictable results: schools are shifting more toward pre-portioned processed food, which has standardized calorie and nutrition content, and avoiding the homemade and informal.
P.S. Meanwhile, a Washington Post article suggests that because of the narrowing exceptions noted above, because kids can still distribute “order forms for sweets such as Girl Scout cookies” (as opposed to the cookies themselves) during school hours, because after-hours athletic events and the like aren’t covered, and so forth, there really is no story here and critics are being unreasonable.
“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.
“Lawyers are pitching state attorneys general in 16 states with a radical idea: make the food industry pay for soaring obesity-related health care costs. … So far none have agreed to sign on.” One hope: the theory popularized by former FDA chief David Kessler that bacon, brownies and buttered popcorn should be seen as “addictive.” Paul McDonald, a Chicago lawyer who is organizing the campaign, is described as a former “senior counsel at Kraft Foods.” [Helena Bottemiller Evich, Politico]
You can watch here (earlier). Related videos, including those of the other panelists, at the American Bar Association site.
Meanwhile, even former enthusiasts are beginning to give up on the “food desert” theory — opening a supermarket nearby does little to change unhealthy diet habits. So guess what’s next? Yep, calls for more and stronger intervention [Ann Althouse].
Stephanie Francis Ward at the ABA Journal covers the panel discussion I participated in yesterday on local paternalism at the ABA Midyear in Chicago. The other panelists were Prof. Sarah Conly of Bowdoin College, author of Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism, and Chicago Alderman George Cardenas, sponsor of a proposal to tax soft drink sales in the city. It was hosted by the ABA’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division and moderated by Hawaii land use lawyer Robert Thomas, who has much more at his Inverse Condemnation blog.
See you there? Quoting Hawaii lawyer Robert Thomas at the Inverse Condemnation blog:
Next Thursday, February 6, 2014, we’ll be in Chicago to moderate an American Bar Association discussion/debate on a topic that’s not our usual takings-eminent domain-land use stuff, but is still one of the hotter topics around. “They’ll Take My Big Gulp From My Cold Dead Hands” is an hour-and-a-half with three experts in “Public Health, the Police Power, and the Nanny State,” to quote our subtitle. (Yes, we realize that New York City’s ban actually exempted Big Gulps® but hey, it’s a catchy title.)
Joining me for the discussion:
*Walter Olson, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies. While his list of accomplishments is long, we lawyers love him best for his “Overlawyered” blog.
*Sarah Conly, Professor of Philosophy at Bowdoin College. Author of “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism,” forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.
*Alderman George Cardenas, who represents the City of Chicago’s 12th Ward. Among other issue, Alderman Cardenas has proposed raising the smoking age to 21, and to tax sugary drinks.
Here’s the description of the program:
A moderated panel discussion of the issues raised by New York City’s attempt to regulate the portion size of sugary drinks, and similar measures around the country. Advocates from both sides of the issue will present their rationales, and legal scholars and media commentators will provide the larger picture. The panelists will be comparing various state and federal approaches with the common question: what limits on personal choice can be adopted in the name of public health, the environment, and the traditional police powers exercised by governments? How do these measures work with a federal system where local regulation may conflict with state and federal laws, or at the very least may conflict — at least philosophically — with subsidies to sugar and corn producers, and protective tariffs?
It’s sponsored by the ABA’s State and Local Government Law section, and CLE credit will be provided.
It’s coming as part of ObamaCare (earlier here and here) and it might wind up restricting consumer choice [AP]:
The rules will apply to about 10,800 companies that operate 20 or more machines. Nearly three quarters of those companies have three or fewer employees, and their profit margin is extremely low, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association. …
Some companies may use electronic displays to post calorie counts while others may opt for signs stuck to the machines.
Carol Brennan, who owns Brennan Food Vending Services in Londonderry, [N.H.,] said she doesn’t yet know how she will handle the regulations, but she doesn’t like them. She has five employees servicing hundreds of machines and says she’ll be forced to limit the items offered so her employees don’t spend too much time updating the calorie counts.
David Boaz comments:
In my experience, vending machines shuffle their offerings fairly frequently. If the machine operators have to change the calorie information displayed every time they swap potato chips for corn chips, then $2,200 [per operator per year] seems like a conservative estimate of costs. But then, as Hillary Clinton said when it was suggested that her own health care plan would bankrupt small businesses, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”
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]
Banker: “It should be illegal to start bank runs by spreading mistaken alarms about deposit soundness.”
Ag guy: “It should be illegal to falsely impugn the safety of America’s food supply.”
Hollywood celeb: “It should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV.“
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.