Banning Food and Drink: More Hazardous Than Beneficial
For those who believe that many Philadelphia and Pennsylvania laws and lawmakers are out of touch with reality, count your blessings: there are laws being made elsewhere that are just as, if not more, baffling and unnecessary. These new pieces of legislation don’t look to combat crime or improve the economy. Instead, they are aimed at those traditional “dangers” that we face: food and drink.
In a much-publicized move this past week, the San Francisco Board of Examiners passed an ordinance requiring meals that included toys with their purchase to meet strict nutritional guidelines. Essentially, it bans the McDonald’s Happy Meal, as well as any similar promotions by competitors. Though McDonald’s has been offering “healthier” (relatively-speaking) alternatives in the meal than the traditional hamburger/fries/soda package, the new requirements are much more stringent and would pretty much preclude Happy Meals, as we know them:
- Calories: Less than 600
- Sodium: Less than 640 milligram
- Fat: Less than 35 percent of calories from fat; Less than 10 percent from saturated fat (with exception for nuts, seeds, eggs or low-fat cheese).
- Fruits & Vegetables: At least half a cup of fruit or three-quarters of a cup of vegetables
That sounds more like a strict punishment than a happy experience (I’m not sure kids would think the toy is much reward). Because the Board’s vote was unanimous, it will overcome the expected veto by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
Meanwhile, in Washington state, the Liquor Control Board just enacted a ban of caffeinated alcohol drinks. This ban comes on the heels of one of those drinks contributing to nine college students becoming sick during an off-campus party. Washington’s governor is in favor of the ban, stating, “The Liquor Control Board has a duty to protect the safety of the people of Washington state. It has fulfilled that duty by banning these drinks.”
It’s one thing for Philadelphia and other areas to pass laws aimed at smoking in restaurants or public buildings. Such laws just regulate where one can smoke, permitting smokers to still puff away, so long as it’s done outside, etc. and not affecting others adversely. With these two examples, however, what we have are lawmakers essentially stepping in and banning what would otherwise be legal food and beverage, all for the sake of supposedly protecting people’s health. In fact, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors even acknowledge that the goal of the law would be to make the city the first to combat childhood obesity.
Whatever happened, though, to personal choice and the ability of parents to decide what’s right and wrong for their kids? Maybe the parent wants to make his or her child “happy” and give a toy along with lunch (all for under $5). Maybe someone of legal age wants to actually get the benefit of a popular mixed drink, such as Red Bull energy drink and vodka, all in one package. It’s puzzling that government authorities would tell citizens that they can no longer purchase food or drink that would otherwise be legal instead of leaving it to them to decide on their own of what they should and shouldn’t do.