Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fatuous Thinking

It now appears that the ghost of Tom Frieden is roaming the halls of the state capitol; and the good doctor's healthy meddling is being replicated in the form of a statewide menu labeling bill that appears at first glance to be even more comprehensive than the city's version. As the Politicker points out: "David Paterson will introduce a bill to require chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus, taking a New York City law and extending it statewide.

The bill would, according to a press release, require all "restaurants, mobile vendors, grocery stores, convenience stores and other retail stores belonging to chains that do business nationally and offer standardized menus" to post calorie counts on their menus." If it does, it would go beyond A2620 and S5003; both of which merely replicate the city's effort on menu labeling-restricting the ordinance to chain restaurants. And the Senate bill has only Senator Duane as a sponsor.

Everyone got that? At first blush, it looks as if the governor is going beyond the city's fast food parameters; at least if the release holds up and food vendors and supermarkets are included in the mix. None of this, of course makes good sense-or is an effective public policy; and we're waiting for Dr. Lynn Silver's evaluation of the city's foray into this area. Might be a good idea, after all, to see if the local experiment had any positive impacts before expanding it to the whole state.

Of course, that would mean that the city's menu labeling initiative was actually being subject to an independent audit-and not an in-house review of its efficacy. There is zero scientific evidence to support the efficacy of doing this-and certainly none of the cost-benefit analysis that the FDA does when it looks to impose these kinds of regulations; but, hey, why not experiment by increasing the regulatory burdens on restaurants with mandates that tell owners how to conduct their business?

Still, this means that we will have to re-establish our coalition of local retail and restaurant folks on a statewide level in order to counteract the feel good efforts of those who fail to understand that a healthy state and city must be predicated on a healthy business climate-and not just on how much fruits and vegetables we consume. All while our basic freedom of choice is continuing to narrow.