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Why you may not be ordering this in L.A. on Monday any time soon

If your city council gave you advice on what you should be eating, would you listen?

It's a question residents of Los Angeles will likely be asking themselves in coming days, after their city council passed a resolution backing "Meatless Mondays."

Meatless Mondays is an initiative that urges people to forgo meat products on the first day of the work week. Proponents argue that ditching meat for even a single day a week could be beneficial, from both a health and an environmental perspective.

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According to the Los Angeles Daily News, the resolution backing Meatless Mondays in that city passed unanimously last week.

Of course, that doesn't mean police officers will be ticketing people they find gnawing on juicy rib-eyes on Monday evenings in L.A. restaurants. The resolution is more of a symbolic gesture, designed to promote the message that reducing consumption of meat can help the environment and promote health.

Consumption of red meat has been found in countless studies to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems and other adverse health effects.

L.A.'s resolution comes at a time when governments are taking an increasing interest in what their citizens consume.

Many jurisdictions have cracked down on the use of trans fatty acids in food products, while New York raised eyebrows earlier this year when it announced a ban on sodas that are more than 16 ounces (473 millilitres).

But the movement to restrict, limit or otherwise police the food supply inevitably raises the questions of where is the line between personal freedom and a total nanny state.

And does placing limits on access to "bad" or "unhealthy" foods even work? Several studies have found that adding a tax on soda has no impact on overall obesity rates, for instance.

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At the same time, Denmark announced Monday it would be stepping back from a "fat tax" it introduced on foods containing more than 2.3-per-cent saturated fat. The government said the tax was too onerous and costly to business, problems that far outweigh the health benefits.

Perhaps L.A. is on the right foot. Instead of introducing a tax on meat or banning a certain food, the city council passed a resolution that may increase awareness of the fact a meat-centric diet isn't always beneficial. Maybe that's the kind of gentle encouragement that could get people to take notice.

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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