Mississippi Bans Food Bans

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to all but outright prohibit trans-fats and require chain restaurants, convenience stores and grocery stores to label their menus and freshly made food items with calorie counts. State governments across the country have banned certain foods (in several states Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are now verboten), and locally, New York City is still fighting to ban soft drinks over sixteen ounces.

But there is hope. An entirely different approach to food can be found in Mississippi. Back in March, Gov. Phil Bryant approved Senate Bill 2687, which prohibits any city or county from enacting laws that relate “to the provision or non-provision of food nutrition information …” or “restrict the sale … or serving of foods and nonalcoholic beverages that are approved for sale by the USDA.”
Gov. Bryant argues that, “It is simply not the role of government to micro-regulate citizens’ dietary decisions. The responsibility for one’s personal health depends on individual choices about a proper diet and appropriate exercise.” As a formerly overweight grad school student, the governor exemplifies this philosophy by running and improving his own eating habits. “Leading a healthy lifestyle is important to me,” explains Bryant, “and it is a personal priority of mine to educate Mississippians on the importance of making good health decisions.”

Read More: When Government Tells You How to Eat

Gov. Bryant should be commended for educating his constituents with a wealth of information on how to lead a healthier lifestyle, electing to let them choose what to eat instead of deciding for them. Businesses across the country have already taken it upon themselves post calorie counts on their menus — probably because it’s good business — rendering these new laws unnecessary.

Unfortunately Mississippi is not yet entirely the land of food freedom. In the same year the “ban on bans” was signed into law, Mississippi’s legislature also passed laws restricting cottage food producers and retailers from advertising or selling their goods on the internet and limiting their gross annual sales to $20,000.

The Institute for Justice recently filed a lawsuit in Minnesota, where entrepreneurs are barred from selling cottage food anywhere but at farmers markets and community events and are limited to making $5,000 in gross annual sales. These anti-entrepreneurial laws in both states violate their citizens’ rights to economic liberty.

Americans need to become healthier. But as Gov. Bryant correctly pointed out, this battle should be fought in homes, not courts and legislatures.

— Phil Applebaum
Phil Applebaum is a Maffucci Fellow at the Institute for Justice

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