Monday, June 26, 2006

McZoning: Fat Chance?

In today's NY Post the paper picks up on the fact that, "The City Council's push for a McZoning law to restrict the number of fast-food restaurants is not so far-fetched-a study conducted by Bloomberg's alma mater strongly endorsed such a crackdown." The Post also reports, as we have commented, on the fact that other municipalities have enacted restrictions on fast food outlets, including Detroit, where no fast food place is allowed within 500 feet of a school.

All of which is to once again point out that the obesity issue isn't something that should be a subject of ridicule. The problem is so serious that a National Obesity Action Forum has been established and in its meeting earlier this month the group began strategizing how to further reduce obesity. As the Journal News reports this morning, "A Food and Drug Administration-funded report released this month assesses the annual medical cost of the overweight problem at nearly $93 billion."

The crisis in poor Black and Latino communities is so severe that the clergy in Harlem has become activated to combat the epidemic. Led by Dr. Olajide Williams, a member of the Central Harlem Obesity Workshop, a "Health Revival" plan has been launched by Harlem ministers "to attack obesity among the super-sized in their pews."

Zoning-out fast food outlets, as Elizabeth Whelan opines in today's NY Sun, may not be the best strategy to combat the obesity epidemic but its threat may be necessary to energize an industry that the Journal News tells us "is balking at proposals to require sharing detailed nutrition information with customers..." They respond to the suggestion by claiming that "it is not food establishments' role to police what people eat."

The first recognition that tobacco was a danger to public health surfaced in 1920. It took us over 85 years to reach where we are on this subject today. With obesity we simply don't have that much time to get a serious grip on the problem. We need immediate drastic action today, and the fears of Big Government that Whelan expresses are not as frightening as the proliferation of preventable chronic diseases that are directly attributable to obesity.