“The FDA may soon have the power to criminally charge restaurant owners who fail to publicly post calorie information on menus.” New Cato podcast with Ike Brannon, discussing his article with Sam Batkins in the Summer edition of Regulation. Earlier here, here, here, here, and here.
“The Puerto Rican government is proposing a new law that would label the parents of obese kids as ‘child abusers.’ …Senator Gilbert Rodriguez Valle introduced the bill that would establish a process of identifying obese children in school … If the social workers [sent to investigate] see no improvements after a year, the parents could be fined up to $800.” [The Guardian via Lenore Skenazy and Paul Best, from whom the quoted passage is excerpted]
- If the law was symbolic, consumers were apparently unswayed by its symbolism: L.A. zoning ban on new freestanding fast-food restaurants had no effect on obesity [The Guardian, NPR, Baylen Linnekin, earlier]
- More on draft new federal dietary guidelines: “Report lays groundwork for food ‘interventionists’ in schools, workplaces” [Sarah Westwood, Washington Examiner, earlier, public comment open through April 8]
- Opposition to GMOs is not humanitarian [Telegraph] Washington Post editorial rejects labeling on GMO foods;
- Baker fell afoul of French law by keeping his boulangerie open too often [Arbroath]
- A sentiment open to doubt: “There is a great need for lawyers to utilize their policy and litigation tools in the fight for a better food system.” [Melanie Pugh, Food Safety News]
- “Food policy” progressives “whistle same tune as large food producers on issue of food safety” [Baylen Linnekin, related on single-agency scheme, more Linnekin on competition-through-regulation among makers of wine corks]
- Why restaurant operators need to know about patent trolls [James Bickers, Fast Casual]
571 pages of urgings from the federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, so much to disagree with [Elizabeth Harrington, Washington Free Beacon (obesity “interventionists” at workplaces, initiatives to limit advertising and time spent looking at screens); Glenn Lammi; Julie Gunlock; Paul C. (“Chip”) Knappenberger, Cato (environmental impacts of food production)]
More: “Strategies are needed to encourage the U.S. population to drink water when they are thirsty.” [from the report, quoted approvingly (naturally) by NYT’s Mark Bittman, via James Taranto] And Baylen Linnekin: “Consumers can also have their say through April 8. Open your mouth before the DGAC shuts it for you.”
S’more local autonomy that way: despite federal pressure in the other direction Virginia lawmakers are moving to enable more school bake sales [Laura Vozzella, Washington Post] Columnist Petula Dvorak finds the debate “ridiculous”: “The classic school bake sale to raise cash for sports equipment, class trips or charitable causes is actually an essential part of a curriculum,” teaching lessons of “entrepreneurship, independence, self-reliance, creation of a product.” Earlier on school bake sales here, here, here, here, here, here, etc.
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:
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.
- Why British pubs are in decline [new Institute of Economic Affairs report from Christopher Snowdon]
- After legal battle with chicken chain, Vermont man wins “Eat More Kale” trademark [AP, earlier here, etc.]
- “Why D.C. Breweries Say They’re Drowning In Red Tape” [Rebecca Sheir, WAMU] Pennsylvania: “Cops Seized Couple’s $160,000 Wine Collection – And Want to Destroy It All” [Baylen Linnekin]
- More on FDA calorie-labeling mandate for restaurants and food servers [Sarah Kliff, Vox (“way more aggressive than expected”); Steve Chapman, Jacob Sullum, Danny Vinik, New Republic on the lack of evidence in their favor; Jason Stverak, Providence Journal on the costs; Cass Sunstein via Althouse in favor; earlier here, etc.]
- Opponent seeks sanctions over attempt to turn “meritless snack food labeling action into the Second Peloponnesian War” [Daniel Fisher]
- “A Trademark Year in Wine and Beer: Our 2014 Holiday Buyer’s Guide to Disputed Beverages” [David Kluft, Foley Hoag]
- Roundup of reactions (including ours) to Boston professor’s fateful tussle with Chinese restaurant [National Post, earlier]
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.”
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!