A bill that bans local regulation of portion size and calorie counts for restaurants has passed in Mississippi, a state with one of the highest obesity rates in the country.
The so-called "anti-Bloomberg bill," labeled as such because these are all measures New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has championed, was introduced by state Sen. Tony Smith. The bill's author told the New York Daily News, "If we give government a little more control of our personal rights—where does it stop?" The bill also bans local rules that would forbid children's toys to be handed out with meals.
The first such ordinance was passed in Santa Clara County in California. A study that looked at the effect of the regulation, which requires fast-food chains to offer a healthier option if they give away toys with meals, showed restaurants promoted the healthier options over the fat- and salt-laden versions.
Still, in an opinion piece for CNN, Smith noted that a judge had already invalidated Bloomberg’s limit on the size of sugary drinks, but that more business protections were needed. He wrote, “A regulation banning you from selling a sugary drink larger than 16 ounces will not have any impact on obesity. If people want a bigger size, they can simply buy two or more."
He added that local laws attempting to add such limitations would be a burden to local business. “As a state legislator and a restaurant owner, I wanted to prevent our industry from being regulated out of business."
The lawmaker is also the founder, along with his wife, of the restaurant chain Stonewall’s BBQ, which offers menu items like the “Lil Piggy”—“tender, seasoned chopped pork served on a small split-top roll”—and “mouthwatering baby back pork ribs.”
In an email to Yahoo News, Marion Nestle, the author and New York University professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, wrote, “Wouldn't you know that the state that needs obesity intervention the most would be the one to do this.” She added, “They must not care about the health of residents and don't have to. Taxpayers elsewhere will have to pick up the health care bills.”
The bill passed overwhelmingly, and Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign it.