Keep Food Legal's lawsuit against the administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which we filed last week in the wake of the city's failure to comply with our many requests for information about food policymaking under the Bloomberg administration, has earned some fantastic print coverage--in the form of a New York Post op-ed that appears in today's paper.
The spectacular op-ed, City Hall Legislating in the Shadows, was written by Jeff Stier of the National Center for Public Policy Research.
It's a fantastic read. Here's a snip:
Bloomberg stands accused of not letting the public see how his team made various nanny-state laws and regulations from his (failed) soda ban to his rules against donating food to city-run homeless shelters.
A consumer group, Keep Food Legal, last week sued the Bloomberg administration for allegedly failing to comply with a series of Freedom of Information Law requests going back more than a year. These sought documents from the Mayor’s Office and the Health Department touching on which groups, individuals and outside agencies helped develop the city’s most restrictive food laws and regulations — from the mandatory calorie counts on menu boards to the trans-fat ban, as well as reportedly pending proposals to restrict salt in restaurants and limit happy hours.
The Health Department belatedly offered to provide some information, but the Mayor’s Office completely failed to comply with requests. Yet the state Freedom of Information Law allows only very narrow exemptions to requests like Keep Food Legal’s.
Keep Food Legal’s action, if successful, will send a message to the next [mayoral] administration: You’re free to listen to the most radical outside advisers—but you can’t do it in secret.
Want to support this litigation and our nationwide efforts to defend food freedom? Please donate today.
In a recent appearance on the popular social-media debate site Bloggingheads, Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin was critical of New York City's soda ban. The Bloggingheads video aired just hours before the city's unelected health department rubber stamped (in an 8-0 vote) Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on the sale of most sodas larger than 16 ounces in the city.
Watch Linnekin argue why the Ninth Amendment "presumption of liberty" (along with other portions of the Bill of Rights) affords equal protection to your right to eat a Big Mac, drink a giant soda, or eat a leafy green salad.
If you like the work Keep Food Legal is doing to fight the soda ban in New York City--along with our recent report in support of small farmers and their right to sell at farmers market, our longtime advocacy in support of food trucks around the country, our role in the fight to keep foie gras and dozens of other foods legal in California and beyond--we urge you to donate to Keep Food Legal and become a member today!
Keep Food Legal has been critical of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's outrageous proposal to ban many sweetened drinks greater than 16 ounces.
On Tuesday, July 24 Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin appeared before the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the city agency that may adopt the ban, and spoke out against the ban on behalf of Keep Food Legal's members and supporters in New York City and across the country. You can view PowerPoint slides from Linnekin's presentation here.
Keep Food Legal also submitted written comments in opposition to the ban that same day--also on behalf of its members and supporters in New York City and beyond. An excerpt:
Keep Food Legal, on behalf of its members and supporters, opposes the Proposed Amendment of Article 81 (Food Preparation and Food Establishments) of the New York City Health Code, found in Title 24 of the Rules of the City of New York (the “proposed ban”)....
The most obvious negative intended consequence is that the proposed ban would raise the taxes of New Yorkers—and do so in a most undemocratic manner. After all, at its heart the proposed ban is a revenue “bill” to be voted on by an unelected board that is intended to compel some New Yorkers to pay higher sales taxes. This would occur because a purchase of two sixteen-ounce beverages would a cost consumer more than a purchase of one beverage greater than sixteen ounces—and because sales taxes constitute a percentage of each sale and so rise in relation to the overall price of a sale. Mayor Bloomberg, both predicting and promoting the sale of multiple beverages the proposed ban would foster, said last month that when it comes to customers seeking one beverage greater than sixteen ounces, restaurants could instead “serve it in two” purchased cups.
[T]he proposed ban would restrict food freedom of choice. Mayor Michael Bloomberg opined last month that the right to drink a large soda is not one of the “freedoms.... that the Founding Fathers fought for.” But the proposed ban is (as previously noted) a revenue bill to be voted on by an unelected board. In this way (and others), the proposed ban very much harkens back to those acts of British economic aggression against the American colonies in the 1760s and 1770s—which, like the Sugar Act, nearly always centered on unfairly taxing and restricting food choices—that led the Founding Fathers to fight the American Revolution.
At the close of Tuesday's hearing, Keep Food Legal hosted a fun and fabulous (and well-publicized and well-attended) happy hour and soda salon at the great Northern Spy Food Co., a locavore-friendly eatery in New York City's East Village.
Linnekin has also spoken out against the proposed ban in the media--including on Dennis Miller's nationally syndicated radio show--and devoted two of his recent Reason magazine weekly online columns to the proposed drink ban. You can read those here and here.
What's next for Keep Food Legal when it comes to New York City's proposed ban? Stay tuned. And if you'd like to support our work in this and other areas, we urge you to please become a member of Keep Food Legal.
Keep Food Legal is thrilled to invite our New York City members and supporters to a very special happy hour and soda salon next week at Northern Spy, a highly praised restaurant located at 511 E. 12th St. in New York City's East Village. The happy hour and soda salon will take place from 4-6 PM on Tuesday, July 24.
The soda-themed event will follow on the heels of Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin delivering remarks in opposition to New York City's proposed soda ban at a public hearing held inside the New York City health department headquarters. (Keep Food Legal will also be submitting written comments, something you may do by clicking here.)
Northern Spy, which typically doesn't serve soda, will be featuring large pitchers of artisanal soda for this happy hour and soda salon.
In addition to extra-large artisanal sodas (Mayor Bloomberg notwithstanding), Northern Spy bar staff will be serving up happy hour specials, including $2 off all beers, wines, and cocktail glasses, and $5 off wine bottles. Light snacks will be provided, additional (yummy) food will be available for purchase.
We'll be signing up new Keep Food Legal members during the happy hour and salon (you can pay by check or credit card or join in advance at our website). At 6 p.m. we'll randomly select one Keep Food Legal member (among those New Yorkers present who are already Keep Food Legal members and those who join at the happy hour and salon on Tuesday evening) to receive a $50 gift certificate to Northern Spy!
"This event isn't about promoting soda," says Keep Food Legal executive director Baylen Linnekin, who wrote about the ban in a recent Reason column. "I could count on one hand the number of sodas I have consumed over the past year. For me and Keep Food Legal, this event is about promoting--and protecting--food freedom of choice."
"Northern Spy is proud to host the Keep Food Legal Happy Hour because we believe in a robust and open debate on food policy and access issues," says co-owner Christophe Hille. "We think that any time one group in a position of power dictates limits on what another group may consume, it's worth at least being skeptical. Beyond that, we love people who love food, which is fair description of Keep Food Legal."
- WHAT: Keep Food Legal Happy Hour and Soda Salon (featuring happy hour specials, artisanal soda, light snacks)
- WHEN: Tuesday, July 24, from 4-6 PM
- WHERE: Northern Spy (bar area), 511 E. 12th St. (East Village)
Opposed to the ban? Agnostic? Come on out and mingle and chat over great food and drink in one of New York City's most respected restaurants. Northern Spy, an acclaimed three-year-old restaurant that's helped New Yorkers learn to love kale and was hailed recently by Obama Foodorama for having the best brunch in New York City, has built its menu "around seasonality and quality, whenever possible using locally grown, raised, caught, and crafted products, procured from people who do those things with care."
We'll be standing and milling about the bar area at Northern Spy from 4-6 p.m. We're grateful to Northern Spy for hosting what promises to be a fun and enlightening event, and we look forward to seeing you there!
For press inquiries, to RSVP for the happy hour at Northern Spy (appreciated but not required), or to suggest a Keep Food Legal happy hour or other event in your city, contact us here!
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.
The New York Times reports that it caught New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's health department using Photoshop trickery in an attempt to crack down on soda consumption:
A blunt new poster from the Bloomberg administration shows an overweight man on a stool, his right leg missing below the knee. A pair of crutches leans against a wall beside him. The advertisement, being placed throughout the subway system, warns that ever-growing portions of fast food and sodas could cause diabetes, which could lead to amputations.
But it turns out that the person shown in the advertisement did not need crutches because his legs were intact. The health department confirmed on Tuesday that its advertising agency had removed the lower half of the man’s leg from the picture to make its point[.]
The original image, in which the same man has a leg, and no crutches appear behind him, is here.
Just because the point is a difficult one to make, especially in light of the fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just reported that amputations due to diabetes are thankfully on the decline, does not mean that the government has a right to deceive in order to achieve its objectives.
In a Daily Caller article on the soda ads, Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linnekin is quoted referring to the use of image manipulation to advance Mayor Bloomberg's political goals as "disingenuous."
It appears the campaign against soda may be part of a larger effort by the health department to attack food choice by enacting tougher and tougher regulations that fall just short of an outright ban. On the subject of New York City's campaign against alcohol, Trevor Butterworth writes in an excellent article that appeared at Forbes.com earlier this month:
[A] surprising theory, advanced in a 2005 book by Dr. Tom Farley, who is now the New York City Health Commissioner, may be the driving force behind the new initiatives.
Looked at another way, there is no limit to regulation – apart from an outright ban – that moderate consumers of any legal product should be subjected to for their own collective good.
Again, while Butterworth writes here about New York City's alcohol campaigns, he also notes that work "raises the possibility of other health initiatives." Is the deceptive attack on soda part and parcel of the same "no limit" approach? It appears that may be the case.
Update 1/27/12: Linnekin will be on Rita Cosby's WOR-710 radio show at 4:45 PM EDT today to talk about the ad. Listen live!