Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bloomberg, Rats and Fast Food

In a current posting by our friends at the Gotham Gazette, Josh Brustein takes alook at the war being waged by the Bloomberg Administration against the fast food industry in New York City. The article also looks at the Department of Health's overzealous over-reaction to the Taco Bell rat scandal and the trans fat ban and calorie labeling proposals that the agency passed last December.

Brustein makes a couple of interesting points. On the rats, he cites the comments of Chuck Hunt of the NYSRA and Councilman Joel Rivera, on the need to take a new look at commercial food waste disposers. As Rivera said; "It will help decrease the cost of carting garbage...At the same time we get to mitigate the issue of rats." Rivera feels that the public health controversy should help to reinvigorate the policy discussion on disposers.

There are also some interesting observations on the Rivera bill that would ameliorate the harshness of the DOH menu labeling regulation. As Brustein points out the bill would reaffirm the jurisdiction of the City Council in an area that has essentially been usurped by an unelected Board of Health. In addition, he highlights the fact that it is by no means assured that the regulation will have any effect on the obesity epidemic in the city.

As he says, "...there is no guarantee that the recent steps by the city will actually improve New Yorkers' health...If listing the amount of calories in foods led people to make better choices, than Americans would have gotten healthier in the years since the rules were put in place requiring packaged food to list nutritional information...Instead, Americans have gotten fatter."

Unfortunately, none of this legitimate skepticism has gotten through to the council's leader who tells the Gazette, "I don't have any particular interest in changing what the Board of Health has done." Nor, we might add, in meeting with the industry that employs 100,000 New Yorkers to find out just what it is that they object to in the Board's ill-considered regulation.