Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin took to print, radio, and TV this week to applaud Monday's decision by a New York State judge to overturn New York City's arbitrary ban of certain subjectively large sizes of sweetened drinks like soda. The ban was to take effect this week, but Judge Milton Tingling's welcome decision means the the city will move forward without any such ban.
Watch video of Linnekin above, appearing on Fox Business Channel's Markets Now show with host Dagen McDowell. Linnekin also appeared as a featured guest this week on the nationally syndicated Dennis Miller Show, Curtis Sliwa Show, Andrea Tantaros Show (audio starts at about 19:30), and on America's Radio News Network and Voice of Russia.
As Linnekin noted in each appearance, Keep Food Legal applauds Judge Tingling for rightly acknowledging the ban was a wrongheaded and arbitrary and capricious prohibition passed by an unelected health board whose members were each appointed personally by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The judge's decision is a great victory for consumers and consumer rights and for small and large businesses alike. It's also a stinging loss for a segment of the well-funded, powerful public-health apparatus in this country that seeks to limit food freedom.
Linnekin was also one of five legal experts asked this week by the National Review to comment on Judge Tingling's decision.
“The key thing is that this was an arbitrary and capricious action by the health department, and the court recognized that," Linnekin told NRO's The Corner. "It’s a victory. In general, I’d like to see the court being more vocal in defending people’s rights to make their own choices, but this is definitely a good first step."
Linnekin also spoke with Law360, the popular legal news service, and was quoted at length.
“'Rather than advancing public health policies, this [soda ban] is making people skeptical of public health policies,' said attorney Baylen J. Linnekin of the group Keep Food Legal, which advocates for freedom of food choice and opposes the Bloomberg policy."
While Mayor Bloomberg has already indicated the city plans to appeal the judge's ruling, Linnekin expressed cautious optimism at the prospects of the plaintiffs winning on appeal.
“As confident as the city is, the plaintiffs in this case should be very confident as well,” Linnekin told Law360. “They have victory on their side already.”
Read the comments Keep Food Legal submitted in July in opposition to the city's proposed soda ban, details about Keep Food Legal's oral testimony before the city's health department, and much more about our advocacy work on this issue here.
Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin has appeared recently in a variety of media outlets to share our stance on many of the more controversial food issues today.
For example, Linnekin appeared on BBC Radio (audio starts at about 28:30) this week to discuss the state of the U.S. food safety system in the face of an ongoing scandal involving the misbranding of meat--in this case horsemeat being sold as ground beef--across the European Union. And earlier this month, a column by Linnekin critical of the FDA's newly proposed food safety rules appeared at Food Safety News, a leading food safety website. The column's fact-based criticism of the FDA's costly but ineffective proposals so riled many regulatory cheerleaders that it led Food Safety News to print a response by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)--a multi-million-dollar interest group that advocates for dramatic increases in food regulations at all levels of government.
Because new soda taxes and bans seemingly are proposed on a weekly basis, Linnekin also appeared on News/Talk 760 WJR (audio runs about 10-1/2 minutes) in Detroit to present our arguments against a petition to the FDA by CSPI urging the agency to place a hard cap on the amount of sweetener that can appear in beverages. He also appeared on WVMT NewsTalk 620 in Vermont to discuss Keep Food Legal's opposition to a potential soda tax in the state. (See more on that story--including our written testimony before the Vermont legislature--in the blog post at left.)
Other media appearances have focused on a variety of issues--including everything from the popular Dodge "God Made a Farmer" Super Bowl commercial (which Linnekin discussed in his weekly Reason column) and an appearance on New York University's WNYU radio to discuss the unintended consequences of farm subsidies.
Stay tuned--quite literally--for more from Keep Food Legal! And make sure to follow us on Twitter, where we always announce our scheduled media appearances before they happen.
Last week Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin appeared on the evening newscasts of Washington, DC's ABC and Fox affiliates. Linnekin was critical of two proposals that would restrict access to soda and other sweetened beverages in the District under the guise of combating obesity.
One proposal, floated by DC council member Mary Cheh, would attach an excise tax to purchases of soda. Critics--including Linnekin--have long argued that data does not support such a tax. The other, suggested by two other council members, would be modeled after New York City's wrongheaded and illegal ban on subjectively "large" portion sizes.
In his two television appearances, Linnekin argued on behalf of Keep Food Legal and its member and supporters in the District that enactment of these proposals would serve as little more than a tax increase on low-income consumers (who drink soda at higher rates than do middle- and upper-income consumers) that would not improve anyone's health. Furthermore, since obesity rates have been rising even as soda consumption has fallen over the past decade, the claimed causal connection for these taxes and bans simply does not exist, a point Linnekin made in his remarks on ABC affiliate WJLA:
Baylen Linnekin of the group “Keep Food Legal” says the District shouldn’t legislate what people should and shouldn’t eat or drink.
“Consumption rates of sweet drinks have been going down for a decade and yet obesity has been going up. Soda isn’t the culprit,” says Linnekin.
His Fox 5 comments focused on the rights of consumers to make their own decisions.
"It all boils down to food freedom of choice. It's not up to government to tell us what we should eat and shouldn't eat."
Read more about Keep Food Legal's efforts to promote beverage freedom of choice here.
Last week Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin was a guest on To the Point, a popular, issues-driven, nationally syndicated public-radio program. Linnekin appeared on the show, hosted by Warren Olney and produced jointly by KCRW in Santa Monica and Public Radio International, to discuss with Olney and several well-known experts the issue of whether government can control obesity.
From the show's description:
The agriculture industry has made food so cheap and so plentiful that one third of Americans are obese and another third overweight. Twenty six million people have Type 2 Diabetes, with 79 million more on the way. With a major push from First Lady Michelle Obama, the federal school lunch program has been revised to limit the intake of calories, require whole grains and double the serving of fruits and vegetables. New York's Mayor Bloomberg has banned extra-large soft drinks. With predictions that half the country will be obese by 2030, it's all about controlling a spreading pandemic. But there's also a backlash. Students and teachers in Kansas went on YouTube singing, “We are Hungry." A Republican Congressman has introduced the No Hungry Kids Act. Is it necessary for government to police the diets of America's children? Will it work? Is the Nanny State just going too far?
Linnekin's fellow panelists included Marion Nestle of New York University, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Monica Eng of the Chicago Tribune.
"From a legal perspective, I think the problem is that the USDA is both promoting agriculture and agribusiness--usually big, corporate agribusiness--while at the same time trying to design a one-size-fits-all menu for American schoolkids," says Linnekin. "It's impossible to design thoughtfully a menu that can appeal to a football player, to a kid who doesn't get enough to eat at home, to someone who eats vegan, who eat kosher, who eats halal. That sort of approach is a ludicrous attempt to micromanage, and it's bound to fail."
Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin appeared on the Washington, DC Fox affiliate yesterday to discuss New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on sweetened drinks greater than sixteen ounces. Linnekin appeared alongside Joy Dubost of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Watch the segment below (about 4 mins.) and try to figure out (as we're still doing after Linnekin noted it in the clip) why Mayor Bloomberg was so opposed to the health impact of soda yesterday that he signed an official proclamation letter celebrating National Donut Day (today), which will be read at today's New York City unveiling of "the largest box of Entenmann's donuts ever created."
That bit of amusing news should not distract, though, from the incredibly shortsighted and likely illegal nature of the proposed ban. If the mayor moves forward with the proposed ban, look to Keep Food Legal to oppose the measure zealously.
Update: Read Linnekin's Reason column on the soda ban.
Last week Keep Food Legal launched its first-ever project, Opt Out of School Lunch. Through this project we aim to redefine the debate over school food by urging families to take back control of what their kids are eating.
Instead of simply joining the ongoing debate over what the government should feed schoolkids, we aim to shift the conversation by asking what families, kids, educators, local businesses, and taxpayers can do to work together and find simple solutions to the decades-old school lunch problem. But we need your support to make Opt Out of School Lunch a success!
We want to remind families that they can do better than the USDA can in feeding their children. Preparing a simple brown-bag lunch (or a lunchbox for younger kids) puts the power back in families' hands and shows children that their family is taking charge of their well-being. And because not every child can afford to take lunch to school, we're urging local businesses can play a key role in filling that gap.
What's the problem with the lunches served in public schools in the first place? For too long lunches served by public schools have been used as a virtual clearinghouse for unwanted and often unrecognizable foods produced in excess thanks to misguided federal government policies. But in recent years long-running jokes about various “mystery” ingredients in school lunches have been replaced by growing concerns over childhood obesity and other juvenile health issues.
We've already taken to the media to promote Opt Out of School Lunch. Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin used his weekly Reason magazine online column and an appearance on Laura Ingraham's radio show last week to unveil and spread the word about Opt Out of School Lunch.
We're seeking support to take the campaign nationwide and to make the project a success (by, for example, linking up local businesses with families in need). Want to make Opt Out of School Lunch a Success? Please donate today!
We are also seeking to fill several spots on a new school lunch advisory board. If you have expertise in this area--whether as an academic, policymaker, nonprofit head, or parent--and support the mission of Opt Out of School Lunch, we'd love to hear from you. Please contact us here.
Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin will appear this morning on Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning show, with host Kerri Miller, to discuss a Colorado proposal that would ban added trans fats in all food served in schools in the state.
Colorado - the nation's trimmest state - is considering enacting the nation's strictest trans-fat ban in school food. Other states have banned trans-fat from cafeteria food, but Colorado's law would eliminate it from vending machines, bake sales and all before- and after-school activities.
Is this good public health policy, or is the government going too far?
Kerri's guests are Anne Cooper, the director of nutrition services for the Boulder Valley School District and author of "Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children," Baylen Linnekin, founder of Keep Food Legal, and Liz Williams, president of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
(And yes, that's the same Liz Williams who serves as a Keep Food Legal board member.)
For more information on the Colorado proposal, so sweeping in scope it would effectively mean the end of school bake sales, go here. To read Linnekin's skeptical Reason magazine account of chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, go here.
To listen live to the MPR discussion--set to launch at about 11 a.m. EDT and to last for about 45 minutes--go here.
Update 2/8: MPR has posted the audio from yesterday's segment here.