Culinary Lockdown Merely a Drop in the Bucket

By Albert Goldson

The NYC citizenry was spared, at least temporarily, by another onerous restriction by Bloomberg with a last minute lower court decision invalidating the law banning the sale of sugary beverages greater than 16 oz. However the fight is not over because Bloomberg has two more opportunities to appeal the decision.

Everyone knows that consuming sugary beverages regularly is bad for your health, but so are so many other things. For example you can legally buy as many Camel shortie cancer packs as you want, enough to fill that same banned plus 16 oz. cup.

The lesser known “National Salt Reduction Initiative” is a partnership of 90 state and local health authorities coordinated by the NYC Department of Health with 30 food firms to voluntarily reduce salt by 20% in their products by 2014. That’s akin to a cigarette company agreeing to reduce the number of cigarettes in a pack from 20 to 16. How does that improve the health of a pack-a-day smoker?

This is the culinary version of proposing 30% affordable housing. The agreement is non-binding [weak] and voluntary [unenforceable]. This is the illusion of government taking on the food cartel for the public good supposedly to protect the citizenry from themselves. What’s next? Banning stores from selling clothes that exceed XXL? Limiting calorie count per meal in restos? Banning sprinkles on ice cream cones?

Bloomberg shows rather suspicious timing by introducing these health initiatives in the 12th and last year of his administration. If he’s so concerned about public health, why weren’t these proposals introduced much earlier? He has architecturally remade NYC into Dubai/Shanghai and now he wants to socially remake NYC into Singapore.

Eerily all of those cities are in autocratic countries. As journalist Philip Broughton wrote in the March 9-10 weekend Wall Street Journal on his review of the new book ‘A History of Future Cities’, “It takes an autocrat to design something so ambitious as a city of the future. But if successful, such a city will chafe under autocracy. For a city to truly succeed, it must allow individuals their freedom as well.”

Often autocrats, especially billionaire benevolent ones, treat the citizenry like children. This is the credo of the ultra-wealthy: get rich, get elected then change the rules for purposes of control.

This city government sponsored culinary lockdown will accomplish nothing—a mere drop in the bucket—to dent the serious health problems. Many people are fast food junkies thanks to the food industry who persuade you to buy and consume gargantuan portions laced with addictive ingredients that hijack the neurons to increase one’s cravings.

Interestingly the one item Bloomberg has dared not touched of all his proposals for fear of severe backlash is alcohol. Beer-bellied dad can quaff a mini-keg of brewksie at the ballpark but Junior is limited to his max 16 oz. soda.

The March 12 effective date of this proposed mandate was historically synchronistic. Firstly, on that date in 1894 Vicksburg, Mississippi, Coca Cola sold its first bottle which was a mere 6.5 oz. Secondly, in 1930 a diminutive brown man named Gandhi led a 200-mile march protesting the salt tax and made salt at the sea in defiance of British law.

In a symbolic historical deja vu of consumer defiance (now celebration) New Yorkers should recreate the same march to the waterfront Domino Sugar factory or Pepsi Cola plant where a maverick entrepreneur creates a pop-up store (pun intended, ‘pop’ is soda in other parts of the USA) and serves plus 16 oz. sugary beverages. And to appease law enforcement and avoid a food fight, the entrepreneur can serve free glazed donuts as well. We’re all in this together.

—Albert Goldson is an Architectural & Engineering Contract Manager specializing in transportation megaprojects, energy, and urban planning. He is a long-term Williamsburg resident, an internationalist, and avid jazz aficionado.