NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 23, 2008

Despite its health-crazy reputation, parts of Los Angeles are plagued by obesity rates that rival any city in America.  Now, the city may join a growing roster of local governments aiming to put their residents on diets by cracking down on the fast-food industry, says the Wall Street Journal.

The Los Angeles city council is considering legislation that would ban new fast-food restaurants like McDonald's and KFC from opening in a 32-square-mile chunk of the city. The targeted area is already home to some 400 fast-food restaurants, possibly contributing to high obesity rates there -- 30 percent of adults, compared with about 21 percent in the rest of the city. 

With the ordinance, Los Angeles is tapping into a tougher attitude toward fast food that is emerging around the country:

  • In New York City, a law kicked in earlier this year requiring fast-food restaurants to post calorie counts on the main menu right above the counter; San Francisco plans to implement a similar regulation later this year.
  • New York City restaurants have also been banned from using coronary-clogging artificial transfats; both Boston and Baltimore have passed similar bans.
  • California legislators have recently sent a bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would remove transfats from restaurants and bakeries statewide.

When the restaurant industry views local legislation as going too far, the industry hasn't hesitated to sue, says the Wall Street Journal.  In New York and San Francisco, it is fighting the new calorie-posting rules partly on the grounds that they are violations of free speech, because they force businesses to articulate government messages. 

Source: Sarah McBride, "Exiling the Happy Meal," Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2008.

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