Fattest US state bans anti-obesity measures
Mississippi, the most obese state in America, has passed a bill prohibiting any city, town or county from introducing laws that restrict what people can eat or drink.
The new law will also ban local officials from forcing restaurants to label menus with calorie contents in a state that has topped obesity charts for seven years in a row and where 35pc of adults are deemed overweight.
Gregory Holloway, a politician who voted for the bill in the state senate, said: "If you want to go eat 20 Big Macs, you can eat 20 Big Macs."
The legislation has been branded the "anti-Bloomberg" Bill – a reference to the proposal by Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, to ban the sale of large fizzy drinks. Mr Bloomberg's law was overturned by a court this week.
The Mississippi Bill has prompted widespread criticism from healthy eating groups, which say Mississippi is the last place that needs such a law.
A coalition of organisations, including the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, have urged Phil Bryant, Mississippi's governor, to veto the legislation, a step he must take by Monday if he is to stop the bill becoming law.
Those in favour of the bill say that it is a way to ensure that any future healthy eating laws are passed across the whole state and not just in individual towns and cities. They do not deny that they are also opposed to what they see as government involvement in personal choice.
The bill was introduced by Senator Tony Smith after he was approached by the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association.
Mike Cashion, the association's director, said: "What happened in New York City with Mayor Bloomberg is an example of what we are trying to avoid.
"Other ordinances such as fat bans or portion restrictions have been going on all over the country for some time and our position is that if there needs to be a food policy debate as it relates to public health then it needs to be done where it can be implemented across the state."
Mr Smith, a Republican from the state capital Jackson, added: "If you have one city which implements one law and another which implements another and then another with different regulations then you will be left with a hotchpotch."
Previous attempts to curb obesity have been blocked. In 2011, Haley Barbour, the then governor, vetoed a bill that called for a plan to combat obesity in Mississippi. He said the state was already doing enough.
Katherine Bryant, of the Mississippi branch of the American Heart Association, said: "Nothing should pre-empt local governments from making decisions that they think are best for their citizens. Considering the history we have of a lack of healthy people and the lack of attention to wellness, this bill is very surprising." (© Daily Telegraph, London)