The city of Berkeley, California is about to become the nation’s first locality to ban the sale of so-called junk food in retail store checkout lines.
The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously last week Tuesday to pass the “Healthy Checkout Ordinance” applying to large retail stores.
Under the ban, retailers will have to keep foods deemed unhealthy at least three feet away from the checkout area.
The ordinance applies to foods that contain five grams of sugar or 250 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Chips, candy bars, soda, and other sugary drinks will no longer be available in checkout lanes in the affected stores.
The ban is scheduled to go into effect in March 2021 after receiving a scheduled second reading at the council’s upcoming meeting on October 13. Enforcement would begin on January 1, 2022.
“The city of Berkeley’s press release on the new policy cited a national study, which found that 91% of supermarkets display candy at checkout, along with 85% that sell soda and other sugary drinks by the checkout area,” FOX News reports.
The idea behind the ordinance is to prevent customers from making impulse purchases of sugary or salty snacks or beverages while waiting to pay for their purchases.
“The insidiousness of the industries that put this poison at the check stands where they know they have an active audience. … I can’t stand the idea that they’ve figured this out and have been doing this to us,” said council member Susan Wengraf, The Mercury News reports.
The ban will apply to 25 of the city’s largest stores, NBC Bay Area reports. The law affects stores with 2,500 feet or more of retail space.
“Retailers would still be able to sell junk food in other parts of the store, but not in the checkout line, where the items are ‘at the eye-level of a child,’” the Specialty Food Association reports council member and ordinance coauthor Kate Harrison as saying.
The new law takes the nanny state to a new level, says Christina Herrin, a health care government relations manager at The Heartland Institute.
“This ordinance goes beyond a candy bar—it is much bigger than that,” Herrin said. “The sentiment of this law is a strong message from government to the people, and it couldn’t be clearer. The local government thinks that you and I are not smart enough to make a decision about buying a candy bar for ourselves.”
Governments’ efforts to force people into what they consider to be healthy choices are elitist, says AnneMarie Schieber, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Budget & Tax News sister publication Health Care News.
“Once again, our betters think they know better than us what is best for us,” Schieber said. “It is impossible for a top-down rule like this to improve many people’s lives.”
“They have decided to strip you of your freedom and personal responsibility,” Herrin said. “I wonder what is next? Why not just cut out the middleman altogether and let the government pick out our groceries for us to begin with?”
Government mandates have a poor record on improving the public health, says Schieber.
“Obesity did not go away when cities started banning large beverages,” Schieber said. “Nicotine dependency did not go away when states started clamping down on vaping products. The coronavirus has not gone away now that most people are required to wear masks.”
The public responds best to education that enables them to make informed choices, says Schieber.
“When left to their own devices, people can manage health risks pretty well,” Schieber said. “Cellphone data shows that people were already staying home before the coronavirus lockdown measures went into place. The best way to change behavior is to educate the public by permitting the free expression of ideas and allowing behavioral change to be voluntary.”
The Berkeley ordinance will lead to even more restrictions on personal liberties, says Herrin.
“This is a slippery slope toward further future limitations on choices for the consumer, and once rules like this are on the books, they are extremely difficult to repeal,” Herrin said.
S. T. Karnick is a senior fellow and director of publications at The Heartland Institute and executive editor of Heartland Daily News.