As Friday draws near, two contenders are neck-and-neck for the title of Nanny of the Week. A dark horse may yet emerge, what with so much Big Government on the loose. But leading the pack at present are Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
First Snyder. The self-styled “nerd” gained nanny status on Wednesday by announcing plans for a state registry of fat kids. Under his proposal, pediatricians will report the height and weight measurements of their patients to the Michigan Department of Community Health for purposes of computing a body mass index (BMI) score. The scores will be tracked in the same manner as immunization records.
According to the governor, this breach of limited government—not to mention doctor–patient privilege—is necessary because obesity is “significantly under-diagnosed in children.”
That’s a stretch, given the near hysteria that currently attends the issue. Moreover, Snyder should have done some homework. BMI is a lousy indicator of obesity. BMI represents an individual’s body weight divided by the square of his/her height. Unlike measuring skin-fold thickness with a caliper or hydrostatic weighing, the BMI does not correspond to any actual bodily proportion of fat. That’s why the BMIs of celebrity hotties Johnny Depp, George Clooney, David Duchovny, and Will Smith rank them as “overweight.”
It is unfortunate that the governor’s goof may well overshadow his recent rational moves, such as implementing a four-year lifetime limit on cash assistance.
In close contention is the FDA, which announced today a new docket “to obtain comments, data, and evidence relevant to the dietary intake of sodium as well as current and emerging approaches designed to promote sodium reduction.”
In other words, the agency is laying the groundwork for regulating sodium intake. But as documented in its public notice, the federal government has already spent 30 years trying to persuade Americans to limit sodium intake:
- Since 1980, warnings on salt were added to the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- The FDA, in 1981, launched a “Sodium Education Initiative” with the National Institutes of Health.
- In 1984, the FDA began requiring that information on sodium be included on the label whenever nutrition information appeared on food labels.
- The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 mandated nutrition labeling of food, including sodium content.
- The FDA, in 1993, began requiring labels to list sodium in absolute amounts and as a percentage of the Daily Value. The same year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established labeling requirements for meat and poultry products.
- The FDA has established standards for sodium-related nutrient content and health claims.
- The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, as amended by Obamacare, requires restaurants to provide, upon request, written nutrition information, which includes sodium content, for standard menu items.
- The USDA also promotes sodium reductions through its weight management Web site ChooseMyPlate.gov and the MyPlate 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
FDA officials evidently consider it time to abandon mere persuasion and resort to force instead.
Both Governor Snyder and FDA officials emphasize rising health care costs to justify their intrusive initiatives. Indeed, the expansion of health care entitlements and subsidies has created a de facto public interest in personal lifestyle choices. Simply put, for every tax dollar expended on government-controlled health care, the Dietary Despots gain power.
With Obamacare underway, the phenomenon is growing even more pronounced. Absent strong and sustained public opposition, the competition for Top Nanny will grow ever fiercer.