nothing like a government nanny to micro-manage your life. just what i need a grease cop, a sugar cop, portion size piggy and even the trans-fat police!!!!

Bloomberg puts new focus on New York's bad habits

Sara Kugler Associated Press Jan. 14, 2006 12:00 AM

NEW YORK - When Mayor Michael Bloomberg sat down to lunch with children during a school visit a few years ago, he was disgusted by the junk on their plates.

He pushed for a revamp of school menus, and by the start of the next school year, fat-laden meals were being replaced by healthier versions. That same year, 2003, the city began handing out free nicotine patches, and smoking in bars and restaurants was outlawed.

Now, the city is going after high-calorie foods in bodegas, restaurants and company cafeterias.

Experts say Bloomberg, a bit of a health nut, has targeted unhealthful lifestyles unlike any other administration.

"It's more aggressive than we've ever seen in the past," said Dr. Allan Rosenfield, dean of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "There's a willingness to take on unpopular, but important, issues."

More than 53 percent of New Yorkers are overweight or obese, lower than the national 65 percent but far too high, according to Bloomberg and his health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden. Being overweight raises the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and heart disease, which is New York City's worst killer.

Last summer, the health department launched a campaign against trans-fats. Trans-fats are thought to cause cholesterol problems and increase the risk of heart disease.

After restaurant inspectors found that 30 percent of the city's 30,000 eateries were using oils that contain trans-fats, the department began urging a citywide "oil change." Officials sent letters to food-service operators and started teaching workers about trans-fats.

Officials next want to tackle portion sizes.

Towering pastrami sandwiches and pizza slices that spill over plates may be the city's culinary landmarks, but the health department says the Big Apple is out of control.

So health officials are trying to teach restaurants how to make healthier meals.

Leaders of the state restaurant association have so far supported the health department's efforts but are eyeing it cautiously.

"It's one thing for them to recommend, it's another if they start saying, 'You must do this,' " said Charles Hunt, who heads the association's New York City office.

With nutrition, Bloomberg has so far stopped short of measures as aggressive as the smoking ban. But his obsession with weight and eating should not be underestimated.

In 2001, Bloomberg was horrified when he saw an unflattering photograph of himself in the newspaper. Aides said he tacked it next to his desk as inspiration to lose the weight.

The 63-year-old runs for about an hour a day. He limits unhealthful meals, eats a lot of salads and snacks on popcorn.

If he overindulges, there's a price to pay: He has a weight-loss wager with Peter Grauer, the chief executive officer of Bloomberg LP. They weigh in every six weeks, and whoever is over his goal weight must fork over cash to charity.

The mayor's administration is also urging some of the city's biggest employers to shape up their cafeteria food and vending-machine snacks.

Next week, the department is starting a drive to improve what's offered at bodegas. These stores are often the chief source for groceries in many poor areas, and they often don't stock healthful staples.

City officials say the focus on health issues may be yielding encouraging results: In 2004, heart-attack deaths dropped significantly.

Critics say that the administration hasn't done enough for school nutrition and that many unhealthful items remain on the lunch line.

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