Mayor Bloomberg’s recent decision to outlaw the Big Gulp in New York City in the name of promoting public health made news headlines as well as fodder for some pretty scathing one-liners from the late night comedians. But this is no laughing matter.
While Americans instantly saw the stupidity of such easily skirted regulations (one can just get a free refill or purchase two smaller-sized drinks) they shouldn’t dismiss Mayor Bloomberg’s actions as just the folly of one eccentric politician. In fact, one reason to oppose such efforts (beyond the obvious fact that it’s far outside scope of government to act as the nation’s Weight Watchers sponsor) is that these regulations are completely ineffective and based on dubious and outdated science.
Take the federal government’s oversight of salt--an ingredient Mayor Bloomberg has also tried to vilify. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration – the federal agency with regulatory authority over American food manufacturers – invited the public to comment on the agency’s planned “approaches to reducing sodium consumption.” The FDA received hundreds of comments, the majority of which opposed government meddling in this area.
Many of the negative comments centered on the agency’s reliance on dated and inaccurate information about sodium in the American diet. One glaring example of this was present in the very invitation for comments, in which the FDA cited a 2005 study to claim that “research” shows sodium to be “contributory factor in the development of hypertension, which is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke.” More recent studies contradict that 2005 study and many of the other studies on which the FDA relies.