J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Boston Government Regulates Food

Over at the City Record and Boston News-Letter, Charles Swift writes:

State Representative Peter Koutoujian’s proposal to ban trans fats from Massachusetts restaurants has met with predictable howls of outrage from those insisting that the government has no right to tell them what to eat. I find this outpouring of libertarianism amusing because history shows that one of the primary functions of Boston's government was, in fact, the regulation of the food supply to ensure consumers received what they paid for and that the food they bought was healthy.
Indeed, at the end of every month before the Revolution, Boston’s selectmen set the weight and price of loaves of bread sold in town, based on the price of flour. The annual big town meeting in March elected town officials called Purchasers of Grain and Surveyors of Wheat, among others. The Boston Public Library’s archive of town papers from this period includes an “Account of Bread taken from the Bakers, by the Clerks of the Market [yet another elected position], the year past,” dated 27 Feb 1768.

And of course those loaves contained no more than a trace of trans fats.

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