Friday, July 8, 2011

Legislature nixes Cleveland's trans-fat ban

Ohio lawmakers crammed a bunch of stuff into the new state budget, including this: They've overturned Cleveland's ban on trans fats in restaurant food.

City council passed the trans-fat ban in April, arguing that the industrially produced fats are especially bad for people's health. (Here's my blog post about chatting with Matt Zone about the law the night it passed.) It was supposed to go into effect in 2013.

But the Ohio Restaurant Association immediately asked the legislature to step in. They don't like the city law's documentation and reporting requirements. They want one set of restaurant regulations for the whole state, not a bunch of local laws. So the new law gives all power to regulate nutrition in Ohio restaurants to the state Department of Agriculture.

Rick Cassara, owner of John Q's Steakhouse on Public Square, told the Columbus Dispatch he's against cumbersome regulations of restaurants. "I do have a problem when it gets too much into telling us what we should and shouldn't serve or telling the consumer what they should and shouldn't eat," he said.

Joe Cimperman, who sponsored the ban, is furious. "This is an absolute affront," he told the Dispatch. He says Cleveland will sue to defend the ban. He thinks protecting citizens' health is part of a city's home rule powers.

But lawsuits to defend home rule in Ohio have been failing lately. The state has overturned Cleveland's predatory lending law and its residency requirement for city employees, just to name two. What are the odds a food law will survive?

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