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August 08, 2008 Why am I getting this?
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LA bans fast food restaurants

Dear Friend,

You know me: I'm the last one to defend fast food. But a recent Big Government measure against fast food restaurants has gone too far. In the interest of "public health and safety," the city council of a South Los Angeles district has told fast food chains that they can't open new restaurants in the area for the next year.

Why? Because there are too many fat people in the area. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, 30 percent of the adults in this area are packing on the pounds, verses 19.1 percent in the metropolitan area. The children don't fare much better either: as many as 29 percent of the children living in South Central Los Angeles were obese compared to 23 percent of the children in the rest of the city.

Democrat Jan Perry, who represents Los Angeles' 9th District, said she wanted this ordinance in order to prevent what she and other community activists are calling – get this – "food apartheid." Perry blames the high obesity numbers on the low number of healthy food choices. She believes this stems from the fact that the area has over 400 fast food restaurants and "few" grocery stores.

"Some people will say, 'Well, people just don't have to eat it,'" Perry said. "But the fact of the matter is, what if you have no other choices?"

Now these ignorant politicians, eager for more political power, have decided to step in to fix the problem by limiting free commerce.

Like so many moves by pandering politicians looking to garner votes in an election year, this one is largely meaningless. Remember, the ban only stops the construction of NEW fast food restaurants in the neighborhood – it doesn't REMOVE any of the existing 400 fast food restaurants that Perry and her supporters claim are the problem. So if 29 percent of the children became obese solely because of the existing 400 fast food restaurants, this law will do NOTHING to lower that statistic.

But when it comes right down to it, none of this gets to the heart of the problem.

Keep reading…

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**************************************************** The truth is, you can't legislate eating habits. Banning further fast food restaurants will not suddenly turn everyone in South Central LA into people with a hankering for avocado salad. And truthfully, most fast food joints do offer somewhat healthier alternatives to the Big Mac and fries option. Even if Perry could ban ALL fast food restaurants, it wouldn't make her constituents have better diets – just fewer options.

And as for her statistic that there are 400 fast food restaurants and "few" grocery stores – can you name a town where the grocery stores outnumber the fast food places? Like a typical politician, Perry wants to appear to her constituents as though she's fighting for "The People" against vast corporate fast food companies – even though she's doing nothing at all.

But let's get real: No amount of legislation is going to force residents of poorer communities to give up their Dollar Menu for a $10.00 tuna salad. And no amount of force-fed nutritional information would make a difference, either. Does anyone really think that food is actually GOOD for you?

In the end, the thing that really worries me is that the government is beginning to extend its already far-reaching regulatory grip to the menus of privately owned restaurants – like the banning of trans fats in California and New York law requiring some restaurants to post calorie counts on menus.

That's what we should all be concerned about. If people want to make stupid food choices by eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at McDummy's or Burger Coronary, it's their prerogative.

After all, if the government could regulate stupidity, this country would be a much different place.

Furious about anti-fast food posers,

William Campbell Douglass II, M.D.

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