With increasing frequency, governments at all levels are telling us what we can and cannot put into our bodies — either by banning or heavily regulating particular substances. In fact, cities across the United States have launched a new offensive in the war on allegedly unhealthy food by creating their own “fat police.”
The City of Baltimore, for example, enacted a law banning trans fats that took effect in September 2009. The sponsor of the measure claims the law was essential in order to deal with the problem of childhood obesity. Restaurants discovered to be in violation of the ban receive a warning after their first offense. Repeat offenders are fined $100; and recidivist eateries can be closed. No restaurants had received a citation…until last week.
A restaurant, ironically named “Healthy Choice,” dared to cross Baltimore’s fat police by using a margarine that contained 3 grams of trans fat, as calculated by the city’s fat police. When a follow up inspection by the inspectors discovered the restaurant had reduced its use of trans fats, but not by enough to meet the government’s mandate, the owner of the eatery was fined.
The restaurant now is complying with the regulations by using a more expensive, but less flavorful, margarine that contains less than the .5 grams allowed under the law. The owner had been warned that a third violation could result in the closing of his business.
Healthy Choice restaurant in Baltimore, USA, presumably is patronized by consenting adults who chose to eat there because they enjoyed the food and the service; notwithstanding the food might be a bit fattening. This, of course, is of little concern to the city’s health inspectors; nor is the livelihood of the owner, who states that business at his restaurant already is down by a third thanks to the negative publicity he has received.
Is it not enough to force restaurants to provide nutritional information to customers, as many are now required to do? Must government be permitted to use its police power to force business owners to serve only those foods deemed appropriate by its agents, regardless of what adult consumers want to eat?
Nanny-statists from Baltimore to New York City may claim that such regulations are necessary “for the children,” but what this is really about is control — controlling the adults, not the children. And if the authorities have to put a few entrepreneurs out of business to make their point; well, that’s just part of the price we pay for a government-defined “healthy” lifestyle.