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Who can make the best decision about what we eat?
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who succeeded in outlawing trans fats in french fries and other New York restaurant food, and forced chain eateries to list calories on menus, has taken aim at super-sized sugary sodas.
The Board of Health is expected to approve the ban, which could take effect as early as March.
The ban would apply only to sweetened drinks over 16 ounces that contain more than 25 calories per 8 ounces -- that would cover most regular sodas.
It wouldn't affect diet soda, any drink that's at least 70 percent juice or one that is at least half milk or milk substitute. Starbucks Frappuccinos would probably be exempted because of their dairy content, and Slurpees and Big Gulps at 7-Eleven would still be OK because those stores are regulated like grocery stores.
How does the mayor justify this intrusion into personal freedom?
The City Health Commissioner estimates obesity-related illnesses in New York City cost $4 billion a year. More and more scientists are seeing sugar as a dangerous, addictive substance, and soft drinks as the biggest single source of added sugar in the American diet.
Bloomberg admits people will still be free to order more than one drink, but thinks limiting servings to 16 ounces at restaurants, delis, sports arenas and movie theaters would help.
You tend to eat all the food in the container," the mayor said. "If it's bigger, you eat more. If somebody put a smaller glass or plate or bowl in front of you, you would eat less."
Should consumers be able to make good decisions about their health? Yes.
Do they? For the most part, the evidence shows, the answer is no, especially when corporations have an interest in making sure they don't.
If the big soda ban is put into effect and proves to work, look for more intrusion into personal freedom.
We prefer Gov. Dave Heineman's approach to the healthy diet issue, urging Nebraskans to patronize their local farmers' markets this summer for fresh, locally grown produce.
"Farmers' markets help connect produce growers with residents of cities and towns, provide growers with another outlet to market their fresh produce," Heineman said. "Nothing compares to the freshness of the produce found at the farmers' markets across our state. It is great-tasting and it's good for your health."
It's also in the taxpayers' interest to promote healthy shopping, and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services have done just that for the past 12 years, operating the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program.
It provides low-income senior citizens coupons to purchase fresh, locally grown produce at their local farmers' markets.
Some $233,000 worth of coupons were redeemed last year alone by the nearly 5,400 low-income seniors participating in the program, according to Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
McCook's farmers market will begin the first Saturday in July, this year in the Sears parking lot in Westview Plaza. Call (308) 345-6366 for more information.
For more information on local produce, including growing your own, visit www.ourbesttoyou.nebraska.gov