No Big Macs for you! Come back in one year!

Courtesy of Will, Time reports that Los Angeles has enacted a one-year moratorium on new fast-food establishments in a low-income area of the city.

I sympathize with those who seek any sort of remedy to soaring obesity rates, particularly amongst the urban poor; how-ever, such nanny-state tactics, meant to save people from themselves, send a chill down my spine. On the other hand,

Councilwoman Jan Perry says residents at five public meetings expressed concern with the proliferation of fast-food outlets in the community plagued by above-average rates of obesity.

Striking the balance between appropriate governmental restraint and legitimate action some-times requires delicacy; that (some segment of) the residents of the area support(s) the moratorium makes it comparatively more palatable, although the residents whom Councilwoman Perry adduces may constitute a vocal minority, rather than an accurate representation of the populace. (Moreover, I think I have, before, suggested that I question the merits of relying too heavily on the wishes of the people, particularly at the local level, where, for whatever reason(s), I tend more authoritarian than I do at higher levels of government.)

Beyond the nanny-state health-policy question, I support this moratorium for reasons best described by dcporter, commenting on Will’s original post:


Having spent a lot of time in a town that bans fast food restaurants (meaning McDonalds and the like – they’ve still got places that make your food quickly), I have to say that I like it. And it’s always nice when local government stands up to oppose international capital accumulation.

Any-one who knows me well enough knows that I positively disdain chains (and, even, franchises), avoiding fast food almost always, steering clear of national sit-down restaurants almost as constantly, and buying local when-ever possible. (I even own a share in the Greenbelt Co-op grocery store!) For voluminous reasons, I support measures, which I should passionately oppose when directed toward other ends, that preclude formula restaurants and chain stores from establishing them-selves in communities; additional to cultural and economic grounds, I oppose chains on pretexts political, aesthetic, and land-use-related. Kudos to Los Angeles: Let’s see other municipalities, maybe states, too, enact such legislation, or, at the very least, enact ordinances and statutes, reasonable in nature, that favor local establishments over corporate entities.

Update: Finally, after three in the morning, I made it beyond the front section and Scrabblegram of Wednesday’s Post and noticed an article, head-lining the Business section, written apropos of Time‘s report.

One in three children in this country are overweight. But, until now, it was unclear how much the nation’s largest food and beverage companies spent influencing kids to eat unhealthy foods.

The companies spent about $1.6 billion marketing their products — mainly soda, fast food and cereal — to children in 2006, according to a Federal Trade Commission report on food marketing to children released yesterday.

One-point-six billion dollars spent on marketing junk food to kids, four hundred and ninety-two million dedicated to carbonated-beverage advertising, compared to a paltry sixty-seven million spent on the “Got Milk?” ad’s. (Yes, I intended to use an apostrophe there: “ad’s” is a contraction of “advertisements”; I have strange writing habits, I know.) All the more reason for the right to embrace culinary conservatism. Unless we aspire to portly populism, reactionary rotundity, or tubby traditionalism, that is.

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Slaughtering cows, messing with a good thing, rather than encouraging personal responsibility

First, allow me to make some-thing perfectly clear: I love meat. I generally eat it five, if not six, days weekly (I have taken up the penance of fasting there-from on Fridays.), usually in the form of steak. However, I sympathize, completely, with the culinarily conservative, earth-friendly, crunchy attitude toward raising (rather than manufacturing) natural, organic meat (even if my buying habits rarely, presently, reflect this). Not only do I dis-dain factory farming practices; I, also, have a problem with wasting food, because I love food, sicken a bit at the thought of an animal’s dying, only for its death to be de-meaned in such a sad way, and recognize that food that could be feeding the millions, if not billions, of severely hungry and starving people across the world, ends up in a land-fill some-where. Finally, I rather loathe the nanny state and any attempts to curtail, say, health problems, that rely on methods other than encouraging personal responsibility.

All of this being so, that this article in to-day’s Washington Post frustrates me ought not to surprise the reader.

LA PLATA, Argentina — The quest for the perfect hamburger, as any ambitious barbecuer knows, is an exact science. And science is all about trial and error.

“How many hamburgers have we made?” says Noemi Zaritzky, head of Argentina’s Center for Research and Development in Food Cryotechnology. “In total, you mean?”

She’s stumped. . .

[. . .]

They explain the basics: 40 hamburgers for each formulation. Hundreds of formulations to test microbiological reactions, oxidation, texture, taste . . .

“A lot of burgers,” summarizes Silvina AndrĂ©s, a biochemist who helped lead the project.

The result is a lean beef burger that is low-fat, low-sodium and juicy, without saturated fat, and that tastes — according to limited consumer tests — as though it probably shouldn’t be good for you.

Essentially, what the scientists have done is take the beef fat out of the meat and replace it with a combination of substitutes less likely to clog arteries. Those substitutes include high oleic sunflower oil and fats from seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which many studies suggest benefit cardiovascular health. They also added phytosterols to the mix — a byproduct of soybeans that can lower the body’s cholesterol absorption.

[. . .]

The average Argentine in 2006 consumed more than 140 pounds of beef, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. None of the other nationalities studied consumed even half that amount, with the exception of Americans, who consumed an average of 97 pounds.

Argentines have one of the highest levels of heart disease in the world, according to the American Heart Association.

[. . .]

In a boxy building about an hour outside of Buenos Aires, more than 100 researchers in white coats mill around test tubes, big-bellied flasks and centrifuges, working on food-related science projects that are funded in part by the Argentine government.

Really, why not tell Argentines to eat less hamburger and to exercise more, stop wasting their tax dollars, stop messing with this delicious, perfect every-man’s cut of meat, and halt the need-less slaughter of the number of cows sufficient to supply forty hamburgers for each of hundreds of formulations? Long live paternalism, eh?