Last week, Councilman Eric Gioia introduced legislation that gives new meaning to the term Big Brother. He unveiled a proposal that would require fast food restaurants to keep their distance from schools.

Gioia said city children “are literally being poisoned” by the places where they eat. We are guessing Gioia does not really believe children are “literally” being poisoned at fast food restaurants and that he misused the word for dramatic effect. We are also guessing children consume most of their calories at home.

Under Gioia’s bill, fast food restaurants could not open within one−tenth of a mile from a school. The legislation is based on a study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley and Columbia University that claims that children who attend schools near fast food restaurants had a greater chance of becoming obese.

We will concede that city children eat more fast food than they should. While we were skeptical at first of the city law that requires these establishments to post calories for each item on their menus, we are hopeful this law is having some effect.

But Gioia’s proposal is unworkable and unfair. Whether or not to allow children to eat at fast food restaurants is a decision that should be made by parents, not Big Brother. Also, finding an easily accessible location to families in Queens not close to a school will be impossible. The state already found this out when it tried to restrict registered sex offenders to residences that were not located near a school or playground.

Gioia’s attempt to create salad bar−only zones is an intrusion on the rights of parents to determine where and what their children should eat. Gioia would have done better to encourage McDonald’s and other restaurants to continue to promote healthier choices. Many fast food chains are already doing this.

The legislation ignores the generosity these establishments have shown over the years. They have made a profit, but they have also given back. They sponsor Scout troops and Little League teams and provide hundreds of entry−level jobs.

Obesity is a serious problem for Queens children, but this is knee−jerk legislation that will do nothing to make things better.

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