Food Nannies

I’ve been saving this post for a bit, wanting to wait until there was a day that seemed appropriate to heave this tidbit of a post into the aether. As Chicago officially bans foie gras today, it seems that now is as good of a time as any.

Chicago seems to be ground zero in the recent food restrictions. Yes, there is their is the foie gras ban. On the other side of the same coin is their recent desire to ban restaurants from selling foods with trans fat. Although the names of the institutions involved may have changed in these debates, rest assured that they both are about the same thing: A government is putting into law what food products can be sold and purchased with the end result being less food choices for consumers.

Of course this is nothing new. As an example, In the name of public health many States ban or restrict the sale of unpasteurized milk. But let me ask a question here that has seemed to have alluded the many people who have sought out the public headlines: If a consumer has all the relevant information surrounding a food product, shouldn’t it be up to the individual on whether they purchase (or not purchase) foie gras, french fries or a well made cheese?

Michael Ruhlman had it exactly right when he posted the following on Megnut:

In the end it’s not about the foie… It’s that it represents another way uninformed people are trying to legislate what I am or am not allowed to eat.

As an adult, I am allowed to make adult decisions, which include the choices of items I do or do not put into my body. To have a governing body make that decision for me is an excessive application of political power by these institutions, be they the Chicago city council, PETA or whomever.

What makes these Chicago perspectives so appalling is that they’re not based on science, but on somebody else’s moral compass. Although science is given lip service in the trans fat issue, little or no attention is being given to other obesity causes such as excessive sugar, untested synthetic ingredients or even serving size. Imagine the outrage that would occur if Alderman Burke sought to ban or restrict, not just trans fats, but sugars, salts and serving sizes. What makes talk about banning one cause of obesity okay, but talking about all of them, not so much? To put it another way, if you can’t ban all of them, why ban any of them?

As silly as the trans fat discussion can be, the foie gras debate is equally reprehensible. PETA went after foie gras for several very specific reasons:

  • It’s a small industry with little or no way to respond to the PETA’s interpretation of the production process
  • It’s a food often associated with the upper class, allowing the issue of class to be part of the subtext of the debate.
  • The imagery of the gavage, shown by itself, is easy to misinterpret if one doesn’t know the physiology of birds, nor is able to see the birds before and after feeding.

It was an easy win by a group that had more resources (financial and otherwise) at their disposal than food producers they were up against.

The most dangerous aspect about the foie gras ban is not in the ban itself (which is quite horrible), but in the precedant it sets. Do you think that PETA will stop at foie gras? Do you think that there are other groups out there that have political agendas that would love to see food bans instituted based on nothing more than a sense outrage?

Am I overselling the danger of this a bit? Possibly. But to me, it comes down to the following – Would I rather make decisions for myself, or have others make them for me?

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