Bill would limit local government from nutrition restrictions

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Mississippi tips the scale in obesity rankings. For the past eight years, The Centers for Disease Control has ranked the state the fattest in the country. But is it the state's job to shed that ranking? Picayune Senator Tony Smith says, "No." He believes it's a personal responsibility.

"Can you imagine if all of a sudden one of the cities said you can't have buffets, that's killing the obesity fight. So then they go in and ban the buffet," Smith asked.

Senator Smith believes strict regulations, like several cities in New York have passed, where restaurants have to list the nutritional facts, would hurt small businesses.

"Under these type regulations, they would actually have to do menu analysis on every possible menu combination that could be. That's so expensive, it would be cost-prohibitive for most of the smaller operators that make up the bulk of the industry," Smith said.

Dietician and Executive Director of Gulf Coast Health Educators Debbie Colby said she has mixed feelings on the bill. She believes it is a good idea for chain restaurants, but understands the obstacle it presents for small businesses.

"Nationally they have passed some menu regulations and soon major restaurant chains will have to list calories on their menu items. So I think that will help awareness," Colby said.

She believes education is key to fighting obesity.

"I think most people want to be healthy, they just need the tools and resources to reach those goals," Colby said.

But that will not come as a cost to local businesses, if Governor Phil Bryant decides to sign Senator Smith's bill into law.

"I see this as a great move on our part to prevent the government from taking another part of our freedom away from us," Smith said.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.