Los Angeles food cops have blacklisted bacon. As a result, the city’s law enforcement is on the lookout for the most notorious ring of pork pushers: food cart vendors who serve bacon-wrapped hot dogs. (The infraction is taken so seriously that one merchant even found herself behind bars for more than a month after a recent series of raids.) Threatening a $1,000 fine, six months in jail, and confiscation and disposal of a violator’s food and equipment, the city’s Health Department is determined to drive home the message that “bacon is a potentially hazardous food.”
Like other nanny-state initiatives, the argument against bacon-wrapped offerings is a technicality at best. Grilling is the traditional way to prepare the classic bacon dog. But the county’s Environmental Health Department only allows vendors to boil or steam hot dogs. As Reason TV noted, this trivial distinction leaves hot dog vendors “trapped between government regulations and consumer demand.”
Over-the-top food bans in the name of “public health” are not foreign to L.A. officials. Last year, city lawmakers unveiled plans to “fight” obesity by prohibiting fast food restaurants from building new outlets. And before that campaign, bureaucrats pushed for trans fat bans.
Though these and other intrusive policies make city officials feel “tough on rinds,” scientific evidence proves that this slap-the-hand-that-feeds-you approach actually accomplishes very little for the public good. These for-your-own-good policies also take a toll on our individual liberties. In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville warned that we should not take these little intrusions lightly:
It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones.
The bacon dog ban is a case in point.