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A moratorium on McDonalds?

Almost 40 percent of children in Price George’s County, Maryland are overweight. So state Sen. David C. Harrington wants to impose a moratorium on the permitting of new fast food restaurants in the area. Cutting obesity and its attendant ills in a particularly unhealthy part of the state is a great goal, and the county or the state should do all sorts of things fast food joints wouldn’t like to encourage better eating. But preventing the construction of new McDonaldses and Burger Kings is a nanny-state intrusion too far.

Other methods of promoting healthier eating enhance or are at least neutral to consumer choice. Forcing restaurants to display calorie counts for their full menus enables people to make more informed decisions about what they’re eating. So does expanding educational programs on healthy diets. Banning trans fats, which New York City has done, gets rid of an ingredient that’s pretty hard on the cardiovascular system and isn’t even necessary to make greasy food delicious.

Still other policies can nudge consumer behavior without such a broad restriction on the market; since overconsumption of fast food leads to higher health costs that society must bear, I’m even sympathetic to the argument that taxing it to discourage consumption and to make those social costs explicit might make sense. But, at some point, diners should be able to make their own choices about where and what to eat, and the market should be allowed to meet that demand.

Instead, Prince George’s officials worry about putting “citizens at risk to make poor decisions,” as Health Officer Donald Shell put it to The Post, even though that’s sort of the point of America’s whole “free country” thing. Now that’s a sentence that should make shivers run down your spine.

By Stephen Stromberg  | January 26, 2010; 4:42 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Next: Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R-S.C.) breeds contempt

Comments

If the county really wanted to do something about the junk served at fast "food" restaurants they would just send in some of their cops and firebomb the places.

You can't get raw milk or grow certain plants in Maryland, yet that's not "nanny state" to Stromberg. But trying to slow down the amount of poison disguised as food that comes into the county sends him into fits of righteous indignation.

What a typical chattering-class moron. I'm guessing Hiatt hired him.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | January 26, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

What's amazing is that we're paying as much as we pay for health care, but eat at McDonald's.

If you want to live longer, eating right and exercising will take you a lot further than overpaying for health care.

Posted by: postfan1 | January 26, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

SOrry but McDonalds is not the root of the problem.
The family status in this country is the problem.
People do not cook for their families and do not have family meals. People are running around constantly eating on the fly.

We are a junk food nation, and it is not only fast food.
I just came from the grocery store. Everywhere in the grocery carts were chips, soda, pre-processed foods. JUNK JUNK JUNK.
We need nutrition classes in kindergarden and constantly.

Posted by: kare1 | January 26, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I assume that we should ban the selling of high heel shoes because the put a different stress on the leg and foot; ban the selling of soft mattresses because they don't allow for the proper back support; ban the sale of low rider jeans because they'll expose the small of the back to cold weather which could induce...something.

We allow the sale of guns with little restriction, we allow drivers to obtain licenses with minimal driving skills, we allow the sale of tobacco and alcohol, yet going to tell people that there shouldn't be more McDonald's or Taco Bells or Panera Bakeries or... or I don't know what else, but we should stop them because people don't know how to shop or eat wisely?

I think, then, that parents of children not yet of legal age should be prosecuted for allowing their children to eat recklessly, ban the sale of cell phones beause children don't learn how to interact personally, ban social networking because it interferes with people developing real-life friendship, ban dating services because the services are de facto pimping, ban male enhancements and stimulants because..., well, it must not be right.

What else can we or should we stop? Oh yeah; stop selling pets because some people have abused them.

Posted by: Dungarees | January 26, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

to dungarees
Gotta admit the ideal of banning high heels has my feet feeling good. After 30 years of wearing them to work my feet are a mess, but guess what, my choice

Posted by: kathymac1 | January 26, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Was restricting tobacco ads from radio and television, nothing more than "nanny-state" intrusion. The court suits filed against the tobacco industry and the state and federal government anti-smoking campaigns-simply interference in the "market" Does the state have a any role to play in promoting the general welfare and health of its people?

Often its been my experience ,the first comment visitors to this country make upon seeing the American people is one of shock- to see so many people literally eating themselves to death. Not just in P.G. county. Drive through many American towns across the country and its dismaying to see our society being overwhelmed by morbid obesity. The argument that its a free country and nothing need be done about is absurd.

Millions were seduced by cigarette ads on radio and television, millions died from lung cancer and heart disease. Hundreds of thousands still do. Yet,it was a good thing, a public good,- government banning those commercials. Government should protect the population from unscrupulous corporations who knowingly peddle products medically and scientifically proven to cause disease and death and at the same time spend millions of advertising dollars to attract and manipulate.

Yes individuals are responsible for their own choices, but a society that promotes health and well-being is preferable to one that would be indifferent to the condition of its citizens.

..."the market should be allowed to meet that demand." Well if thats the case then legalize every compulsion. Tobacco, Cocaine, etc. Why not allow for every for addiction and tax the proceeds.

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Posted by: sfdgerygyhjujedtgfhfg | January 26, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Markets work best when, among other things, the consumer has complete information about the products available to them. With that information they can make the choice that best suits their individual needs and preferences. The role of government is to ensure that markets work by ensuring, in part, that consumers have access to product information. Perhaps, in the interest of public health, governments can mount public information campaigns to influence better behaviour. It used to be that littering was not considered bad behavior. Government campaigns against littering have changed behavior. Ditto Smoking. There is also a psychological factor to self-destructive behaviors that is not going to be addressed by attacking the supplier of products used for self-destruction. The market for tobacco, drugs and alcohol are examples.

Posted by: carajillo | January 26, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Who votes these idiots into office?

The same people too stupid to put down the milkshake, I guess.

Posted by: privacy3 | January 26, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Those calorie counts on menus are a great idea. The first thing teenagers do is check out the calories - then supersize.

Posted by: neilwied | January 27, 2010 2:01 AM | Report abuse

It would make far more sense to ban the poison known as High Fructose Corn Syrup. This will never happen because our Kleptocratic congress subsidizes the manufacturers of HFCS under the guise of helping our farmers.

The FDA will never take leadership in banning this obesity causing substance because they are in bed with the drug companies and food industry. The drug companies love this poison because it causes most of the diabetes in America. They would love to get us all hooked on insulin.

Posted by: alance | January 27, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

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