February 7th, 2008 15:49 EST
Mississippi Diners may face weigh-in
By Mark Huffman
Will hefty Mississippi consumers have to step onto the scales before being allowed to order a Big Mac and fries? Perhaps, if legislation introduced in the Mississippi House last week with three co-sponsors somehow gets passed into law.
While New York City proposes to force fast-food restaurants to post calorie information on their message boards, these three lawmakers have done the Big Apple one better – proposing to make it illegal for a Mississippi restaurant to serve anyone with a body mass index of 30 or more – the clinical threshold of obesity.
It's a logical extension, perhaps, of laws that ban bartenders from serving patrons who are already beyond the point of legal intoxication. Pundits suggested the next logical step would be to ban credit card sales to those who are already up to their eyeballs in debt.
On the other hand, statistics indicate there may well be a need for stringent measures in Mississippi.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found a 61 percent increase in the number of Americans classified as obese between 1991 and 2000. It singled out Mississippi as having the highest rate.
An August 2007 study published by Trust for America's Health classified Mississippi as the heaviest state in the Union for the third year in a row, with 30 percent of its adult population obese.
Mississippi House Bill 282 is the work of Republicans W. T. Mayhall, Jr. and John Read, and Democrat Bobby Shows. It would aim to keep Whoppers and Big Macs out of the hands of fat people, by force of law.
"Any food establishment to which this section applies shall not be allowed to serve food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the State Department of Health after consultation with the Mississippi Council on Obesity Prevention and Management," the bill states.
The measure would apply to any restaurant that holds a health department permit and has enclosed seating for five or more – a definition broad enough to cover almost every restaurant in the state, not just those that serve fast food. The bill does not spell out what penalties an eatery would face for violating the law.