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Editorial: Suffolk bill is a nanny-state recipe

A vending machine.

A vending machine. Credit: AP

Eating well is good. Given obesity rates, more people should be encouraged to try it. Sometimes government prods are commendable -- such as efforts to offer healthier school lunches.

But a bill approved last week by Suffolk County lawmakers is legislative gluttony. Its orgy of regulations dictates what foods, snacks and beverages can be offered by concession stands, cafeterias and vending machines in county parks and buildings. Some provisions make sense, such as banning snacks with trans fats and making sure water is offered in at least two slots in beverage vending machines.

Then it pigs out. There are stipulations like these: One-third of breakfast breads shall have no more than 300 calories per serving; at least 66 percent of snacks other than nuts, seeds, nut butters and cheese shall have no more than 7 grams of total fat; at least 66 percent of grain or potato-based snacks must have at least 2 grams of fiber; and at least 25 percent of sandwiches, salads and entrees must be 550 calories or less, 800 milligrams of sodium or less, and made with whole grains. We could go on.

The bill's sponsor, Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), says she doesn't want to be the "food police." Alas, the term fits. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was derided for his nanny state proclivities toward healthy living. This is Bloomberg cubed.

Granted, some vending machines at the legislative building are junk food buffets. But if the bill is such a good idea, why does it exempt restaurants at county golf courses with waiter service, county jails, the Long Island Ducks' stadium, Vanderbilt Museum and, especially, Suffolk County Community College campuses and all those impressionable young people? Don't they deserve healthy eating options, too?

It's difficult to improve on the silent if unwitting comment offered by one staffer of County Executive Steve Bellone, who watched the debate on the legislation while eating pretzel M&M's.