Posts Tagged ‘obesity’

“Uncle Sam is a horrible nutritionist”

They’re finally letting the egg back into the good graces of government nutritionism, long after it had become clear that the cholesterol scare was unfounded [Washington Post] Again and again, health guidelines promoted by Washington have pushed Americans from safer toward less safe food choices, and from long-familiar foods that came to seem too rich or indulgent (butter, animal fat) toward alternatives about which far less is known. [Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week] More: “Worth remembering that, if they had the power in the 1980s, the public health lobby would have forced us to eat a diet they now say is bad.” — @cjsnowdon

However bad a nutritionist Uncle Sam may be, of course, he is unlikely ever to be as bad as the science-impaired, self-proclaimed Food Babe Vani Hari [The Atlantic (“There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.”), Orac/Respectful Insolence, Advertising Age, earlier] If only the public health establishment worked as hard to counteract the notions spread by Hari as it does to inscribe whatever its current set of food enthusiasms may be into coercive government policy! More: Michelle Francl, Slate.

P.S. At Scott Greenfield’s suggestion:

Prohibition and the lessons of Repeal Day

Last month the Cato Institute hosted a panel celebrating Repeal Day
with me, alcohol policy expert Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Stacia Cosner of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Cato Digital Marketing Manager Kat Murti as moderator.

On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, supposedly ending our nation’s failed experiment with prohibitionism. Yet, 81 years later, modern-day prohibitionists continue to deny the laws of supply and demand, attempting to control what individuals can choose to put into their own bodies….

Some links related to the discussion:

  • All the panelists quoted from Daniel Okrent’s excellent history of Prohibition, Last Call. You can find out more about the book at the author’s site.
  • I quote from a speech by the late Christopher Hitchens delivered ten years almost to the day before our panel. It is excerpted in this David Boaz post.
  • Radley Balko wrote a 2003 Cato Policy Analysis, “Back Door to Prohibition: The New War on Social Drinking“. More: The federal Centers for Disease Control, as I noted, has been an agency of choice for public health campaigners because of its legacy of scientific credibility, yet this credibility is itself put increasingly at risk as the CDC lends its name to propaganda. Jacob Sullum provides examples from the agency’s elastic application of the term “binge drinking” to the trouble it seems to have acknowledging that minor alcohol consumption does not seem to correlate with poor health outcomes;
  • As I mention, the Prohibition episode was important in eroding constitutional protections against various law-enforcement tools, especially search and seizure, the law being inherently aimed at contraband goods. The same is true of the nascent Drug War undertaken following the Harrison narcotics act of 1914. You can read about one of the resulting Supreme Court cases here.
  • The role of exorbitant cigarette taxes in contributing to New York’s giant black market in cigarettes came to wider public notice following the police custody death of Eric Garner on Staten Island; more here, here, etc. The New York Post reported that Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city law department to refrain from filing an intended press release over a would-be landmark suit filed over untaxed cigarettes the week of the Garner grand jury decision, because it interfered with City Hall’s efforts to downplay the role of the tobacco black market.

Food and beverage roundup

FDA issues calorie label mandate

Another hidden gift inside the Affordable Care Act: mandatory calorie labeling for many restaurant menus. Walter Olson comments on the complications and potential unintended consequences of such a mandate.

My new Cato podcast: the new FDA calorie labeling rules apply to not-so-big chains (20 +) of grocery stores and amusement facilities as well as restaurants, and make it less likely that servers and local managers will manage to vary from rigidly standardized recipes, menu listings and portion sizes based on knowledge of their local customers, temporary availability of attractive ingredients, and so forth. That won’t matter much for food servers who already design their offerings in a lab, but spells trouble for those whose offerings are more localized or unpredictable (earlier). Coverage by Ed Morrissey of what the scheme would mean for a 21-unit pizza chain is linked here.

In January, David Boaz commented on the parallel vending machine calorie label mandate:

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.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

More: Baylen Linnekin. And Julie Gunlock recalls her own days working in a supermarket deli. Goodbye, making up prepared salads in single-serving containers from whatever produce happened to be in overstock at the time. Hello, food waste!

Food roundup

September 16 roundup

  • “When I asked them why they decided to sell their [toy import] business, they said that they got out because of Proposition 65 and the CPSIA.” [Nancy Nord]
  • State tax regimes are getting more aggressive about grabbing money earned in other states [Steve Malanga, City Journal]
  • “Still can’t get over the fact that all [development] permits are discretionary in San Francisco” [@TonyBiasotti linking Mark Hogan, Boom]
  • How would American politics change if political parties could expel members, as in many countries they can? [Bryan Caplan]
  • Defenders of Wisconsin John Doe prosecutor push back against Stuart Taylor investigation [Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via Althouse, more, related on “blue fist” posters and John Doe investigator, earlier]
  • “In Britain, Child’s Weight Leads to Parents’ Arrest” [New York Times in June, King’s Lynn 11-year-old; also, Cadbury agrees to “stop making chocolate bars in Britain with more than 250 calories”] More: Pencil-twirling in class leads to CPS referral in New Jersey [Katherine Mangu-War, Reason]
  • Should there be judicial remedies — what kind, and for which plaintiffs — when federal spending is politicized? [Daniel Epstein, Federalist Society “Engage”]

“Put Down the Cupcake: New Ban Hits School Bake Sales”

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.

Food roundup

Food roundup

  • The federal school lunch initiative as experienced by school districts in rural New York [Sarah Harris, North Country Public Radio]
  • Europe’s Ugly Fruit movement wants to reclaim for consumers tons of food rejected for appearance, sometimes by marketers and sometimes by regulators [NYT]
  • Expect uptick in food labeling suits after Supreme Court decision approving suit in Pom Wonderful v. Coca-Cola [Glenn Lammi, WLF; FedSoc Blog; more, Mayer Brown]
  • “Biggest secret” of glutamic acid, of umami and MSG fame, “may be that there was never anything wrong with it at all” [BuzzFeed]
  • Cottage food win: New Jersey lawmakers unanimously back right to sell homemade goodies [Institute for Justice]
  • Celebrity-driven “Fed Up” film is “strident stalking-horse for a Bloombergian agenda” [Jeff Stier, Baylen Linnekin]
  • Young persons, especially college students, drink much more than they used to. Right? Wrong [Michelle Minton, Andrew Stuttaford]