Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Healthy Skepticism

The Appellate Court has upheld the city's restaurant menu labelling experiment-demonstrating to us that just because something may be legal, doesn't make it smart. As the NY Times reports: "In a victory for New York City’s campaign against obesity, a federal appellate court on Tuesday rejected the New York State Restaurant Association’s challenge to the city’s 2007 regulation requiring most major fast-food and chain restaurants to prominently display calorie information on their menus."

What is clear to us is that this fight against obesity is a chimera, and the menu labelling will do more to threaten the health of local fast food outlets than it will help reduce obesity-no matter how much the city's health commissioner brays to the contrary: "This is good news for everyone,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner. “Nearly all chain restaurants are now complying with the law. Consumers are learning more about the food before they order, and the market for healthier alternatives is growing. We applaud the court for its decision, and we thank the restaurant industry for living by the rules.”

There is still no evidence proffered by these social science illiterates that the posting will be put to good use by those folks who are most in need of reducing their caloric intake-since the DOH had no data to demonstrate that it would; but, hey, why not experiment by increasing the regulatory burdens on local restaurants with mandates that tell owners how to conduct their business?

And there's a reason why the FDA exempted restaurants from labeling that was required for packaged manufactured food: "The three judges found that Congress intended to exempt restaurant food from the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 and left the question of whether to require the posting of information like calorie counts to state and local governments." But the calorie rule for packaged goods had gone through a rigorous due diligence before the FDA had instituted the rule.

The city never even bothered-so certain are the health ideologues that their quixotic ventures are for the public good. Which is similar to Frieden's "site them and they will come" philosophy behind his produce peddling initiative; an abysmal failure that failed to get more than 8 peddlers out into the streets this summer. People don't act the way he wants them to; can mandates be far behind?

This is all part of the Nanny state creeping fascism that reminds us of the observation of CS Lewis about the danger of creeping totalitarianism: “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies, The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”