Proposed legislation known as the "Anti-Bloomberg Bill," which was passed by an overwhelming margin in the Mississippi House on March 6, would make it illegal for local governments to restrict the sale of fatty or sugary foods based on the nutritional value of those foods.
Senate Bill 2687, which NPR notes was the product of intense lobbying from special interest groups, states the following: "No political subdivision shall ... restrict the sale, distribution, growing, raising or serving of foods and nonalcoholic beverages that are approved for sale by the USDA or other federal or state government agencies."
The bill would prohibit towns, cities and counties in Mississippi from requiring fast food restaurants to include calorie counts on menus, from banning large sodas like the Double-Gulp, and even from prohibiting free toys included in kids' Happy Meals.
The proposed law was created partially as a response to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempted soda ban, said Mike Cashion, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, which lobbied lawmakers to pass the bill.
Speaking by phone to The Huffington Post on Tuesday, Cashion explained why he felt the bill was needed.
"If there needs to be additional discussion on public health policy regarding food as it relates to the consumer, that discussion should take place at the state level and should be implemented at the state level, for uniformity and consistency," he said.
State Sen. Tony Smith (R-Picayune), one of the bill's authors, gave an even simpler reason for the effort: It's meant to "prevent misguided attempts to battle obesity," the lawmaker said, according to the Sun Herald. Smith also said that restrictions on food and drink can have "devastating" effects for restaurant and small business owners, the paper noted.
But the bill also has critics, who argue that it's misguided and won't help solve the state's obesity problem.
"Rather than promoting bills that would get local fresh foods in the hands of kids, Mississippi is working hard to make sure toys don't get taken out of Happy Meals," said Roy Mitchell, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, who sat in on a committee hearing of the bill last month. "It smacked of corporate protectionism at its worst."
(Hat tip, NPR)