Goodbye Ice Cream Man?

Unbridled obesity panic could soon put the Good Humor Man on ice in San Diego. A group of food scolds, commissioned by the city’s Board of Supervisors, has drafted “strategies” for combating childhood obesity which, among many outlandish ideas, include “ordinances restricting mobile junk food vendors from areas frequented by children and youth.” Such laws would “expressly apply to ice cream vendors.”

It’s not just the neighborhood ice cream guy who should be worried. On tap are truly galling calls for zoning restrictions on restaurants, “fat taxes,” advertising bans, shutting down drive-thrus, and even absurd odor controls to make food less enticing.

Obesity hysteria manifested itself in the draft’s consensus recommendation to “Make prevention and treatment of Childhood Obesity and other related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, our number one priority in the County, Health and Human Service Agency, and private/public collaboration with dedicated leadership, staffing and resources.” [emphasis added] That priority comes at the expense of a consumer’s ability to eat, as another consensus point would “Enact strict City and County zoning laws addressing the number of, construction of and conversion of fast food outlets and drive throughs, especially those around schools.”

Ideas emanating from “experts” include “ordinances to limit access to fast food outlets and drive throughs during high school and junior high hours.” This might mean you literally could not go to a local drive-thru for lunch if there’s a school nearby. The “experts” also recommended classifying obesity as a “disease” and suggested that food makers control portion sizes to conform to government standards.

The draft report includes some far-out proposals from members of the community. Perhaps the most troubling idea would “change fast food’s image to one of danger.” Another strategy, apparently designed to prevent people from even thinking about food, would create odor-control ordinances to punish restaurants if the smell of their goods escaped their building. Then there was the idea — going even further than Texas Agriculture Commissioner and self-titled “Food Czarina” Susan Combs’ prohibition of students sharing gummy bears at school — to ban “unhealthy” foods from even being brought to school. While some schools are concerned about checking for weapons, apparently San Diego wants to search kids’ backpacks for Ho-Hos. Other ideas from the community include:

“Discontinue food used for fundraising” in schools.
“Pass a Fat tax and Junk Food tax.”
“Reduce or totally eliminate outdoor advertising countywide promoting fast food outlets, unhealthy foods and beverages, and other messages that disregard healthy lifestyles.”
“Reduce or eliminate in-store bright, bold eye-catching advertising of unhealthy foods.”
“Post warning messages on products that have been linked to increasing the risks of diseases such as obesity and heart disease.”

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