The New York Times has reported that an “anti-Bloomberg” bill intended to curtail the ability of local governments to pass food regulations has gained significant support in Mississippi, where Governor Phil Bryant (R) is expected to sign the measure into law. “It is easy to view the new Mississippi law with an ironic eye,” writes Atlantic Bureau Chief Kim Severson, pointing to obesity rates in the state. “But the legislation is the latest and most sweeping expression of a nationwide battle in which some government officials, public health leaders and food supply reformers are pitted against those who would prefer the government quit trying to control what people eat.”
Since its introduction by Sen. Tony Smith (R-Harrison), who owns a barbeque restaurant, the bill has apparently garnered support from other food retailers as well as agricultural interests, such as the farm bureau and Mississippi Poultry Association. Broader in scope than similar measures passed in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, and other states, the Mississippi version would prevent cities and counties from limiting portion sizes, establishing menu-labeling laws or restricting “the sale of food based on how it was grown, which would protect food made with genetically modified grain,” according to Severson. In particular, the article notes that states and industry proponents pursuing these bills have since described federal menu-labeling laws as “plenty of regulation” or expressed concern that local interventions like incentive-item bans could create “a patchwork of regulations that would be difficult to enforce and put an undue burden on smallbusiness owners.”
“We see the writing on the wall with what’s happened in other parts of the country and we want to make sure we stay one step ahead of the process,” Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association Director Mike Cashion was quoted as saying. Additional details about the state legislature’s approval of the bill appear in Issue 472 of this Update.