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Government at Its Most Dumb

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In this case, I am talking about Colombia, not the U.S. or Europe, but this is a good object lesson for the type of liberal or technocratic centrist (there can be a good bit of crossover here) who thinks the goal of good government should be to protect people from themselves. I have no thoughts on the health merits of this. I simply know that it is a very stupid idea that is the sort of thing that will alienate people from government generally.

In Colombia, a new illicit product is on the rise. Desperate consumers are sneaking it in suitcases from abroad, hoarding it in their homes, paying outrageous prices online and lining up at clandestine locations to buy it.

The contraband? Dijon mustard.

A new health law intended to improve Colombians’ diets — which are heavy on meat and fried food — has led to the disappearance of a host of fare from market shelves, including the French delicacy of the condiment world.

“It’s just pitiful,” said Sylvère Belliot, who owns a bakery in Bogotá, the capital.

“Mustard is part of being a French person,” he said. “It is essential for enjoying food.”

Inspired by a push by the Pan American Health Organization to address high rates of cardiovascular disease in the region, Colombia’s Health Ministry in 2020 imposed limits on high-sodium products, with the measure taking effect last November.

The rule caps sodium for 59 products, including cereals, meats, nuts, breads and cheeses. Mustard must have less than 817 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams. A jar of Grey Poupon Dijon mustard has nearly three times that ratio.

Though French restaurants are relatively easy to find in some of the country’s bigger cities, French cuisine is not necessarily wildly popular among average Colombians.

Still, mustard is a popular condiment in many homes, and there are plenty of outraged Dijon lovers who say they are being punished.

I think I’d vote Republican if a Democrat pushed an anti-dijon law. I really don’t care how much salt something has. Banning or restricting not only will never work, it will cause a huge backlash. And I will be happy to join that backlash! There are plenty of ways to promote healthy food. Using the power of government to simply ban foods is just about the worst way to do it.

Also, I have a layover in Bogota next month. Maybe I should engage in some black market work and help pay for the trip.

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