Food Law Policy: Eric Adams Can Innovate in NYC

On November 2, New York City voters are likely to elect Eric Adams as the city’s next mayor, a development that could herald a new era of local government experimentation in food policy, potentially with national implications. Adams’ views on policing have received a lot of media attention, and David Schleicher recently blogged here about Adams’ comments suggesting he favors a zoning budget-type approach to increase affordable housing. Adams’ interest in encouraging people to adopt plant-based diets to improve public health is likely less known, although it has been covered in the media going back several years. If former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to change what people eat are a precedent, Adams’ interest in food policy could lead to court cases to discuss on this blog.

Adams’ Book Healthy at Last

In 2020, Adams published Healthy at Last, a book that chronicles how he adopted a “whole-food, plant-based” diet and reversed his Type 2 diabetes after he was diagnosed with the disease at age 56 (p. 118). The book describes the health benefits of a plant-based diet, shows how individuals can change their diets, and provides 51 recipes to help people along. Adams also argues for “reimagining soul food” as “plant based” (p. 49). Although a whole food plant-based diet is vegan, Adams emphasizes that eating vegan by itself is not necessarily healthy (vegans can eat processed foods such as potato chips) and he advocates not eating “foods with more than three ingredients” (p. 86).

While Adams is mainly focused on the public health benefits of plant-based diets, Healthy at Last also includes a short discussion of the environmental benefits. The book suggests that Adams is prepared to speak openly about the link between diets and climate change that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others have highlighted, but that American politicians generally have shied away from confronting. For instance, farmed animals (such as cows) rais