NYT's Kim Severson Chides 'Fat' Mississippians for Rejecting Food Regulations

New York Times Atlanta bureau chief (and foodie) Kim Severson got rather insulting while writing about a new Mississippi law forbidding any locality from making rules on food size or content, passed in the wake of NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg's thwarted attempt to limit the size of sugary drinks New Yorkers could order: "'Anti-Bloomberg Bill' in Mississippi Bars Local Restrictions on Food and Drink."

The Mississippi Legislature wants to be the sole government body that controls its buffets, barbecue and sweet tea.

To that end, the people who govern the state with the highest rate of obesity in the nation have passed a bill saying that any law that might restrict what Mississippians eat or drink has to go through them -- barring federal regulations.

That means that cities or counties cannot enact rules limiting soda size, salt content, shortening in cookies, toys in fast-food meals for children, how a menu is written or just about any other aspect of the daily dining experience in Mississippi.

The bill, which is on the desk of Gov. Phil Bryant and is likely to get a swift signature, is unique not only in its approach to managing the state’s diet but also in its timing.

Informally, legislators are calling it the anti-Bloomberg bill, a reference to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, whose attempt to limit the size of sugar-laced drinks was shot down by a state judge this week.

It is easy to view the new Mississippi law with an ironic eye. As Representative Omeria Scott, a Democrat, pointed out during the debate on the bill, “Mississippi is the fattest and most unhealthy state in the U.S.A."

But the legislation is the latest and most sweeping expression of a nationwide battle in which some government officials, public health leaders and food supply reformers are pitted against those who would prefer the government quit trying to control what people eat.

For a food writer, Severson had a pretty puritanical and regulatory relationship to food.

Reviewing Robert Kenner's grim nauseating documentary, "Food, Inc.," in June 2009, Severson loosely stated that "E. coli was a constant in the food supply" and passed along helpful suggestions to help along Kenner's food crusade: "At the end of the film a series of suggestions run across the screen. Plant a garden. Cook a meal for the family. Contact Congress."