Bans on Raw Milk Have Worked So Well, Why Not Extend Them to Junk Food? Debating Debates
I was at a food safety conference a few years back that focused on raw milk, and one state public health official concluded his remarks by saying, to effect, “I personally don’t see why we spend all this time going after raw milk. If people are going to be stupid enough to drink it, then let them go ahead and kill themselves.”
Then, at a raw milk symposium a couple years after that, I heard a raw milk proponent give the other side of the same mind-set. “You know, things will change over the next few years, because the people who oppose us will die off from all the junk food they eat,” she said, referring to the public health regulators.
I always thought those attitudes, while not the sort of peace-making attitudes we’d like to envision, could be the basis of some sort of live-and-let-live approach to the wide gulf over food rights and food safety that exists in our society. It’s definitely preferable to the regulate-and-control approach that has driven oversight of raw milk.
But no, it seems as if the regulate-and-control approach has been judged such a success for raw milk, it’s being extended in a big way to junk food. New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is proposing to ban the sales of soda in containers of 16 ounces or greater. The idea is to reduce the obesity epidemic in the city—according to the New York Times report, more than half of New Yorkers are overweight or obese. I've seen other estimates that possibly two-thirds of all Americans are overweight or obese.
Since the East Coast and West Coast are often national trend setters, it’s not far-fetched to expect such junk food bans to spread—to more locales, and more foods. More regulation. More restrictions. More control. The initial New York ban will cover the sale of drinks from restaurants, push carts, and movie theaters. But you know it won’t stay that way.
I don’t have any brief for soda or other junk food. But if we’re going to be true to a philosophy of favoring food rights, we can’t any more back a ban on soda—no matter what the size—than we can serious limitations on raw dairy.
There’s a debate on raw milk upcoming in Canada on Monday, and to go along with it, a debate about the debate.
“In a way I agree with previous comments, why should we at all even engage in the debate, how we can get the law changed to have the right granted to us to obtain raw milk?” he wrote a few days ago on The Bovine.
I appreciate his frustration, that the general debate format isn’t necessarily useful for resolving anything substantive concerning raw milk and food rights in general. But it is useful for educating people who aren’t familiar with the subject and all its complexity. That’s why regulators tend to shy away from participating in these events—they don’t want to educate the public. In the meantime, nearly 20,000 people have viewed the Harvard debate. Lots of good learning going on.
Thanks to Jan for the link (following my previous post) to Sen. Rand Paul’s speech asking for limits on the FDA using armed agents, going after small farms selling raw milk, and preventing food and supplement sellers from making health claims. I like also his mention of the proliferation of federal laws and regulations designed to ensnare law-abiding citizens. He definitely said some things that needed saying in that august chamber. More in the way of helpful education.