March 16, 2013 9:18:56 PM
JACKSON -- In the most obese state in the nation, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says he'll sign a new law to prevent cities or counties from banning extra-large soft drinks or requiring restaurants to list calorie counts on menus.
Some lawmakers call Senate Bill 2687 the "anti-Bloomberg" bill as a jab at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who tried to limit super-size sodas. A New York judge this week struck down Bloomberg's attempt to limit the size of sugary drinks sold in the city.
Republican Bryant said Thursday that he opposes local restrictions on food labeling or portion sizes because he sees them as interference into private business practices.
"I'm very supportive of anything that will stop the nanny state," Bryant said. "I'm supporting the bill. I look forward to signing it."
Bloomberg said Friday on WOR radio in New York that the Mississippi bill is "ridiculous" and that life expectancy in the Southern state is shorter because of obesity.
Bryant has until Monday to sign the bill, and it will become law immediately.
Health advocates urged him to veto it, saying cities and counties should retain the ability to ban plastic toys in kids' meals or enact other rules to promote wellness. They said nutrition labeling gives consumers more information and helps people have more control over their health.
"Passing preemptive legislation on menu labeling and promotion of healthy foods is a step in the wrong direction," said Katherine Bryant, Mississippi government relations director for the American Heart Association. "Mississippi cannot afford to move backwards in addressing the growing epidemic of obesity."
Federal rankings show nearly 35 percent of Mississippi adults were very fat in 2011, the worst rate in the nation.
Bryant has he was overweight as a child but is now a frequent runner. He said it's up to consumers, not government, to make healthful food choices.
"If you can't control yourself by maybe drinking a bottle of water and you think the state allowing others to enjoy a soft drink is going to affect your health care, we've got bigger problems than a 32-ounce soft drink," Bryant said.