As food bans spread rapidly across the country in the interest of public health, one is left wondering how they will be monitored. With the multiplicity of difficult public health issues before us, it seems that governments nationwide have found a new way to deflect more pressing issues by implementing food bans – and there is a willing cadre of starry-eyed idealists standing by to assist. The dawn of the Food Narcs is upon us.
Some of you might not be aware that Chicago has banned foie gras from our local eating establishments by an ordinance passed by the ever-public-minded Chicago City Council. Since this is difficult to enforce, the overstretched city is relying upon – guess who: concerned citizens. And, indeed, nine restaurants have been warned because people dining at adjoining tables, in their psychologic delicacy, have filed complaints with the city. These offending restaurants, “believed” to have served fois gras, according to the Chicago Tribune, were sent warning letters from the Chicago Department of Public Health after receiving a citizen complaint. A visit by the Department of Public Health occurs after a second citizen complaint, and visits that turn up evidence of the banished dish can result in fines of $250-$500.
While multiple large companies have moved to ban trans fats from their recipes, will other smaller companies risk litigation by not following suit? Certainly the Big Boys will be under careful scrutiny by the legal community because they have deep pockets. But what of the little guy? Who will be overseeing the corner hotdog stand to assure they’re serving trans fat free bagels? Now we know who: fellow community-minded citizens. Isn’t it reassuring to know that if you cannot control yourself, or are victimized by making politically incorrect choices, others will be there to save you from your own behavior?
If people cannot be responsible for behaving correctly, then perhaps the only alternative is for other citizens to monitor them. Maybe they can be sent to food reconditioning camps – Chairman Mao anyone?