By Michelle Edelbaum, January/February 2009
Last summer, Los Angeles lawmakers banned fast-food chains from opening new outlets in South L.A., which has the city’s highest concentration of fast-food restaurants and a 30 percent higher rate of obesity than the rest of Los Angeles County. The long-term goals of the one-year ban are to reduce obesity, encourage more healthy food choices in existing fast-food restaurants and promote new, healthier food outlets in an area that lacks eateries and grocery stores.
We wondered if a ban on new fast-food restaurants would be effective at accomplishing these goals, so we asked three experts:
Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest
South Los Angeles is already so saturated with fast-food restaurants that a ban on new ones might not have much of an effect. It would be far more productive for the city to provide incentives for supermarkets and farmers’ markets to make healthy food accessible to local residents.
Aviva Must, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Health and Family Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine
It represents an important first step in environmental approaches to eating well. The ban alone will not likely have an immediate impact on eating habits in the community because there are plenty of existing quick-serve restaurants, but in my view it is responsive to community calls for such change. Plus, it puts the fast-food restaurants on notice that they need to continue to make healthy options available at an affordable price. It may also empower other communities to advocate for similar changes in their locales.
Stephen Joseph, J.D.
Lawyer who fought successfully to eliminate trans fat from Oreo cookies.
I don’t think [the ban is] a good thing. I am in favor of calorie labeling for every item on the menu boards in every fast-food restaurant. It’s very influential. Fast-food companies will change their menus and add on lower calorie items.