Back in 2008, the city of Los Angeles passed a one-year ban on new fast food restaurants in South L.A. The idea was to try to temporarily do something about obesity in some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. But like most government policies, this one isn't going away:
Los Angeles is making one of the nation’s most radical food policies permanent by effectively banning new fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles, a huge section of the city that has significantly higher rates of poverty and obesity than other neighborhoods. …
“If people don’t have better choices or don’t have the time or knowledge or curiosity, they are going to take what’s there,” said Jan Perry, a city councilwoman who represents part of South Los Angeles and pushed for the regulations. “To say that these restaurants are not part of the problem would be foolish.”
Restaurants aren’t part of the problem, as the New York Times points out:
A study released in 2009 by the RAND Corporation, a research group based in Santa Monica, found that the moratorium was unlikely to effectively change the rate of obesity or diabetes in the area. The study argued that rather than focus on calories that come from fast food, policy makers should instead look at junk food snacks from gas stations and convenience stores.
We'll also throw into the mix a 2008 study by economists Michael Anderson and David Matsa which found “no evidence of a causal link between restaurants and obesity” because consumers cut down on calories in other meals before they go out to eat. And a 2007 study from the International Journal of Obesity concluded: “The obesity epidemic is often speculatively blamed on fast food, when the actual evidence shows very little, if any, association of fast food with weight gain.”
The origin of this fast-food-ban nonsense is, believe it or not, the social movement that wants to extend legal “rights” to cows, pigs, and chickens. The so-called “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine” (PCRM), a PETA-related activist group that likes to fool reporters into thinking it’s a mainstream medical charity, has been peddling this idea for some time. PCRM considers restaurant prohibitions to be one of its pet causes. The group also tried to push the same idea on Detroit last year with no success.
Memo to the L.A. City Council: Banning fast food restaurants doesn't solve anything, something we’re fairly sure PCRM knows. Even media activist Sheldon Rampton helpfully points out: “The general public should understand that every position from PCRM stems from its commitment to animal rights.”
Rampton is right (at least this once). PCRM’s crusade isn’t about making you healthier. It's about preventing a cow from becoming your dinner.