Service of Restrictions

November 8th, 2010

Categories: Consistency, Credibility, Flip Flopping, Guidelines, Mixed Messages, Restaurant, Restrictions, Substitutions


As you read it, you’ll notice that this post could also be called, “Service of Mixed Messages.”

I get the restrictions on liquor and cigarettes for children under a certain age but I wonder, no doubt due to my love of Crackerjacks and happy memories of tiny tops and other surprises hiding in those boxes of toothsome caramel popcorn, whether a city or state should also protect children from high calorie food with toys.

The Board of Supervisors will be protecting the children of San Francisco in this way, which you no doubt heard or read about on TV, radio, on the Internet–everywhere last week. As of a year from next month, a restaurant meal and drink can’t include a toy if its calorie count is more than 600. And less than 35 percent of those calories can be from fat.

Maybe we should ban bubblegum too. Family lore has it that I picked up some chewed bubblegum from a NYC sidewalk and popped it into my then two year old mouth which no doubt happened to thousands of others. Think of the potential choking and disease!

school-lunchroomWhile San Francisco is banning Happy Meals and their equivalent, did you know that 23.5 percent of high schools offered fast food from chains? Lesley Alderman, in “Putting Nutrition at the Front of the School Lunch Line” shared this statistic from the Centers for Disease Control, identifying Taco Bell and Pizza Hut as examples.

While too much food is going on, Alderman notes in The New York Times, that “School lunches must meet a minimum calorie limit set by the government, but it’s up to individual schools to decide how the calories are apportioned. If a meal has not reached the limit, the cook can toss on extra slices of bread to bring up the count.” So some kids aren’t getting enough calories? Shouldn’t we focus on them too?

pizza2And since I’ve digressed to the secondary theme of mixed messages, what about the front page story in the same paper, “While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the same place that warns people about eating high calorie foods laced with saturated fats, helped Domino Pizza revitalize its recipe by adding both calories and fat in the form of additional cheese. The result, a dramatic sales spurt. Along with the formula makeover, Dairy Management [part of the Department] “proceeded to devise and pay for a $12 million marketing campaign” according to the writer Michael Moss.

Do you think that the government should influence what we buy to put into our mouths unrelated to cleanliness and safety? Does the increasing government involvement in health care give the government the right to interfere–in a “He who funds, runs” sort of way?


9 Responses to “Service of Restrictions”

  1. Hester Craddock Said:


    Once again you tackle a vast subject of topical relevance.

    Our recent midterm elections were contested in part over the roll of government in our lives, with a sizable, enthused portion of the electorate fervently voting for candidates that promised to shrink it.

    I suppose the argument goes that if the government must pay for us when we get sick, it should be allowed to control what we consume to make sure we don’t get sick. It’s a fair argument, but I don’t buy it. Just as well, I don’t think our government should have to pay for our health care when we do get sick.

    As you rightly point out with your examples, the whole idea of food control carried too far becomes absurdly silly, a little like the dietician, at the last hospital in which I was incarcerated, deciding what I should eat. Of course, as I expect is true for most patients, the food being inedible, I didn’t eat what she wanted me to. (It’s amazing, but like most of us do, I did survive the place.)

    Unfortunately, your subject is neither absurd, nor silly. Lots of money is involved. If you dig a little further, you’ll find that what children, and for that matter most adults consume is decided by what is going to make the most money for mega food related companies relying on highly sophisticated teams of lobbyists, marketers, lawyers, political campaign contribution deciders, “research specialists” provided with the conclusions at which they should arrive in advance, and so forth. It is naïve to think any are concerned with what happens to the consumers. However, helping kids get skinnier is good PR, even though anyone who has ever been around kids knows that they are going to eat something bad for them if they can find a way to do it!


  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The old exception to the rule popped into my head as I read your thoughtful comments. Wouldn’t it be grand if everyone was employed and could afford to pay for their own health care? Not the case. I know a hard working woman who almost died waiting for her 65th birthday because she couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. Once on Medicare, she had a bunch of tests and learned she had diabetes. She feels much better now that she can control what she eats and sees how it affects her wellbeing.

    The confusing messages we get from the government–the Dept. of Ag. Domino Pizza example–is as puzzling as the fact the government, with plenty of other things on its plate, feels it should do more than advise about what we eat. Is ice cream going to be the next victim along with bagels and cream cheese?

  3. Nancy Farrell Said:

    Jeanne: No and no. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all solution especially when it comes to health. I was a 99 pound freshman in college (instead of gaining the freshman 15 I lost 12 pounds that year.) Had it not been for pizza I would have blown away entirely. Should my fat intake have been restricted? We should have information about what we’re eating but there’s more to good health than keeping track of calories and fat. Would diet soda be considered healthy under these guidelines? What about eating nothing except lettuce and black coffee? I read something about people who are on crash diets who are suffering from bone loss. I’ll bet their fat and caloric intake are low but where’s the calcium in their diets?

    And what role does exercise play in all of this? I would rather leave these decisions to myself and my doctor.

    As far as children go, I’m still a little miffed that my 4-year-old learned in preschool that juice has sugar in it. Never mind that this is one of the ways I manage to get vegetables into her. Nine months later I’m still trying to convince her that a little juice is fine, especially if we have water and milk, too, throughout the day and brush our teeth. As far as I know she was not told that the candy her teachers were giving her for Valentine’s Day had sugar in it (and no vegetable juice in it either.)

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your advice to go to a doctor and discuss a dietary plan is perfect. You can’t guess at these things and one size, literally fits nobody. After a very stressful period, I lost a ton of weight and looked like an underfed Gwyneth Paltro and learned that I had high cholesterol which I thought a skinny person wouldn’t have.

    Amazing how conscious your four year old is about sugar! WOW. I’m impressed. Maybe she doesn’t like juice and thinks that the “no sugar” card gets her out of drinking it?

  5. Nancy Farrell Said:

    Jeanne: You are correct about the “no sugar card.” Last week she asked if she could have a candy necklace and chocolate milk for breakfast.

  6. Lucrezia Said:

    We either live in a free country or we don’t. As aesthetically displeasing as it is to see lumpy children accompanied by parental blobs waddling down the street, there is no justifying governmental interference. As to the tax payer footing the bill, chances are many will die of heart failure or other fat related diseases prematurely, thus saving the public purse millions, not counting such people who remain healthy all their lives, rolls of fat notwithstanding.

    The question regarding entitlement to health care should be left to another day. However, studies show that those living in countries where public health care is a given, the absence of anxiety over potential costs result in better health for all. Wealthy Tea Party people can yell righteously against what they see as “socialized medicine.” Will the tune remain the same if thrown out on the street corner because of crippling costs due to family illness?

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As we write about this topic I see so much more than lumpy children, I see so many potential hazards to children that at some point are subject to Big Brother’s concern from sharp pencils that feel good to munch on if you’re teething to kitty litter that would be fun to play in absent a sandbox and………..

    And you are correct about people changing their tunes if a family member is hit with certain diseases. I wish disease on nobody but the care of some could drain the fattest wallets. I envision the buttons on their iPods being punched as I jot this response.

  8. AA Said:

    If everyone in the country was well nourished it would certainly (I THINK) be good for the country. But I don’t really know if it would be a solution. If the government is Big Daddy does it infantilize the citizens? B.D. knows best and will mandate how you live

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Being well/properly nourished certainly would help children to learn and this would be great for the country.

    Don’t like the idea of BD–or anybody for that matter–mandating how we live.

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