Ten Dumbest Food Cop Ideas

Over the years, the growing cabal of diet dictators have proposed a litany of crazy proposals to tax, legislate, and litigate away many food and beverage choices. What follows are ten of their dumbest ideas: "We're going to sue them and sue them and sue them." As a grim precursor to a campaign of extermination-through-litigation, the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) recently convened its second annual meeting dedicated to suing American food producers into oblivion. Following their first conference, "intended to encourage and support litigation against the food industry," then-PHAI executive director Ben Kelley sent a letter to eight major food companies and restaurants insisting that they take responsibility for slimming America down. If food companies didn't force everyone to go on a diet, the letter warned, trial lawyers would sue. …and Sue Their Parents and Sue Their Doctors… John BanzhafIf litigation against restaurants and food companies weren't enough, self-described movement leader John "Sue the Bastards" Banzhaf has a few other wacky notions. In true ambulance-chasing fashion, Banzhaf advocates suing doctors who don't adequately warn patients about obesity. He also urges lawsuits against parents of obese children, saying lawyers should "go after parents with TVs in their [kids'] rooms." Banning Diet Soda in Schools In an attempt to address childhood obesity, politicians in Texas, New York, Philadelphia, California and elsewhere have removed soft drinks from schools. But in their frenzy to control our kids' diets, they have also banned diet soda — a zero-calorie drink, last time we checked — along with everything else. Of course, the schools are still allowed to sell fruit juice, which often contains more calories than regular soda. All of this comes without a shred of credible evidence linking soda — let alone diet soda — to childhood obesity. In fact, a recent study by six Harvard researchers found just the opposite. The "Zoning" Diet — Keep Restaurants Out of Town "There is no reason we can't, through zoning and planning, regulate the location, density, or hours of junk-food outlets," write reliable food cops Tom Farley and Deborah Cohen. They're hardly alone in demanding draconian zoning restrictions on restaurants and food stores. Yale University's Kelly "Big Brother" Brownell also supports the idea. And after a Dunkin' Donuts opened up in Scituate, Massachusetts, PBS's Mark Fenton (a self-anointed "pedestrian advocate") took action. A member of the town's planning board, Fenton proposed a measure to prevent any new fast food restaurant from coming to town. Although the vote was 140-90 in favor, it narrowly failed to meet the two-thirds majority necessary to become law. Hiding Candy Behind the Counter In its never-ending attempt to demonize a long list of foods, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has taken to labeling some items "food porn." But Public Health Institute lawyer Edward Bolen has taken CSPI's moniker even further. He is convinced that candy bars, chewing gum, and Tic-Tacs should be treated the same way as Playboy and Penthouse. Bolen advocates "putting nutritionally deficient foods behind the counter like you do with spray paint." Of course, his proposal risks creating what CSPI nutritionist Bonnie Leibman calls the problem of "forbidden fruit." By day, Leibman labors to put severe restrictions on our food choices. But by night she lets her own kids occasionally snack on treats to prevent them from developing an insatiable urge to indulge behind her back. No Sharing of Snacks at School "Until further notice birthday or any other classroom treats will need to be purely nutritional and as free of sugar as possible … Please do not be disturbed or disappointed when your sweet treats are denied by the teacher due to this new policy from the Department of Agriculture." That's from a letter sent home to the parents of students at Walnut Creek Elementary in Azle, Texas. The letter came in response to an edict from Texas Agricultural Commissioner Susan Combs, who calls herself the "Food Czarina." She unilaterally prohibited hundreds of foods in Texas schools, and her dictates even prevent students from sharing treats with their friends. "Stop," Combs barks in true food cop fashion. "Step away from the junk food." National Food Czar As crazy as Combs might sound, she's got company. In 1998, a panel of diet scolds organized by the National Academy of Sciences recommended a litany of new food regulations, including a mandate for a national "food czar" to centralize nutrition policies. A similar food czar has already been appointed in Scotland. Hopefully, this lord and master of food doesn't take the job too literally, returning our diets to CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson's dream of eating like 18th century serfs — feasting "on perhaps a pound of bread, a spud, and a couple of carrots per day." Sin Tax on Restaurant Meals Under Four Dollars Fast food restaurants in Canada were almost forced to ask "Would you like a fat tax with that?" after the Liberal Party in Ontario proposed an eight percent tax on meals under four dollars. The plan didn't go through, but only after food banks complained that the tax would "affect welfare kids and single moms, low-income seniors and the working poor." Despite its failure in Canada, extra taxes on high-calorie snacks and other tasty foods could become a reality some day soon. Already, several state legislators in America have proposed these taxes on eating what you want. Carding for Candy Anti-consumer gadflies trying to force an all-tofu diet on society are also taking cues from New Zealand, where the Ministry of Health recently proposed a new law extending the minimum purchase age requirements on liquor and cigarettes to such popular foods as soda, hamburgers, pie, candy, and chocolate. Ever on the lookout for oppressive new ideas, the American-based Public Health Institute has latched onto the Kiwis' proposal. Ed Bolen, an attorney for the group, advocates similar alcohol-and tobacco-style age restrictions on the sale of popular foods throughout the U.S. In the skewed world of these zealots, a childhood trip down the drugstore candy aisle is now as perilous as an under-age evening of barhopping. Let's hope your kids have a designated tricycler. Completely Dismiss Personal Responsibility Perhaps the worst idea of all is this one from CSPI's Margo Wootan: "We've got to move beyond personal responsibility." Wootan is hardly alone. Anti-soda crusader Harold Goldstein insists, "The delusion is that we all make free choices." And when the World Health Organization added a line referencing the "exercise of individual responsibility" to its anti-obesity strategy, CSPI raged: "Obesity is not merely a matter of individual responsibility. Such suggestions are naive and simplistic." Speaking of simplistic, lawsuit cheerleader John Banzhaf sums up the notion of personal responsibility as "crap."

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