Does the Government have the Authority to Dictate what Americans Eat – No

The basic answer is no – sort of.  While the Constitution provides no clear-cut authority for the federal government to dictate what we will eat, the Interstate Commerce clause provides the typical back-door.  This clause in the Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce, has been interpreted much more broadly than the founding fathers ever intended. 

This clause is the basis for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in that regulation of foods that cross state lines is considered “interstate commerce,” so the feds have assumed that authority.  (This is also the basis for a federal crime when a crime is committed via telephone that does not cross state lines.  The telephone is a medium of interstate commerce, even if both parties to a call are in the same state.)  Regulation of foods and food additives is a power that the feds are unlikely to relinquish, regardless of whether or not it was ever intended.

In the sense that the FDA has authority to dictate which food additives or food stuffs are dangerous, and should not be allowed, then the answer is yes.  Also, in the sense that age limits may be placed or prescriptions may be required for purchase, the answer is still yes.  As to whether or not the authority exists to dictate that we will not eat fatty foods, or some other legitimate food stuffs, the answer is no.  The authority will probably be assumed, and will be used until and unless a court of competent jurisdiction decides it does not exist (and I believe a court would do so).  Doing something and having the authority to do it are two different things.

There is a roundabout way to accomplish the same ends.  Requiring parental consent for the possession of undesirable foods, placing age limits on certain items, adding heavy taxes to soda, candy, or whatever, or regulating the places that something may be consumed all would have the effect of a partial prohibition, but would not be dictating what Americans eat (yeah, right!). This is a politician’s way to exert perceived authority without admitting that he is doing so. 

Let me point out that my father-in-law, Gilbert Metz, was a French-born Holocaust survivor.  In later years, he spoke out about his experiences in such places as Dachau and Auschwitz, and pointed to things happening in this country that were all too reminiscent of what he had seen in Europe in the late 1930’s.  National identification cards, racial profiling, and the government wanting all the information about its citizens that it can get were just a few concerns he had.  His concerns about the government trying to take the place of our parents, regulating everything we eat and drink and do and think, are serious concerns.  We all need to protect our civil liberties, because those are what keep us a free people.

The bottom line for me?  I believe the answer is no, but it will happen anyway, as subtly as possible, unless the courts enforce the rights of the people.