California has been the trend setting state for decades. Hollywood, California alone is responsible for most of the trends set around the world. Aside from the glitz and glam influences, California may be the top health trendsetter, too.
California was first to do many things. They were first to require smog checks, pass anti-tobacco laws, even to require bike helmets. They were pioneers in 1998 when they banned smoking in workplaces, bars and restaurants. The state passes many laws on a yearly basis, and many are positive for public health.
“There have been progressive legislation in tobacco, environment and obesity prevention,” said Mark Horton, a lecturer at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health. “In some respect, the rest of the country looks to California as a laboratory for moving forward with those various types of initiatives.”
While some are excited about the 151,002 health and safety laws the state currently has, others feel the government is barging into their lives. “It never ends,” said Laer Pearce, who works in public affairs in Orange County. “Every year, several hundred bills come through and dozens of them tell us how to live our lives.”
Do we put a fence around the pool to prevent drowning, or do we teach how to swim? When it comes to the new, pending, and purposed laws regarding food labeling, ingredients, and marketing, several states are at odds as to how best handle these issues.
Many new food related laws are being passed, such as the ban on toys in kid’s fast food meals in several cities or the requirement for nutrition information to be on the menu at any restaurant that has more than twenty chains that will be enforced by 2013. There is also the new federal law that will be setting new standards for the food sold and provided in schools. These and other new requirements are getting lots of attention.
The advocacy groups that are out to fight obesity are in favor of many of these laws, saying they could lead to a healthier country and reduce many of the ailments our children and adults are facing today.
Business owners and some legislators are seeing the other side of the coin, though. All these enforced requirements could make running a profitable business more difficult. The legislators who are supporting these thoughts are saying that it’s an issue of one’s rights and that simply it’s not the government’s job to tell people how to eat.
The internet has been a buzz with talk of conspiracy, genetically-modified foods, contamination, restrictions on organic farming, and backyard gardens being banned. Recent recalls and contamination of peanut butter, pistachios, spinach, and tomatoes and concerns about outbreaks of bird flu and mad cow disease seem to be driving three pieces of legislation that have been proposed and referred to committees. It has been suggested that these contamination events were stunts to ease the way for these freedom-restricting bills. Others suggest that the terminology used for organic products and food labels do need some clarification. The fear and outcry seem to result from the vague and confusing nature of the legislation.
With names like the Tracing and Recalling Agricultural Contamination Everywhere Act, the Food and Drug Administration Globalization Act, the Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act, and the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 it’s no wonder there is confusion about what is and is not being regulated, to what extent, and by who. After reading through HR 875, the proposed bill most likely to come to a vote, I can testify that there is not much more clarity to be found in the actual legislation than there is in all the alarmist blogs and email forwarding. (more…)