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F.D.A.’s Mandatory Menu Labeling Regulations Won’t Work, Could Hurt Consumers

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Shortly before everyone started leaving town for Thanksgiving, the Food and Drug Administration issued the rules designed to implement a requirement that was made part of the Affordable Care Act that requires most nationwide restaurant chains and other outlets to sell food to provide nutritional information about the food they sell, even though there is scant evidence that the presence of this information on menus actually has any impact on consumer behavior:

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration announced sweeping rules on Tuesday that will require chain restaurants, movie theaters and pizza parlors across the country to post calorie counts on their menus. Health experts said the new requirements would help combat the country’sobesity epidemic by showing Americans just how many calories lurk in their favorite foods.

The rules will have broad implications for public health. As much as a third of the calories that Americans consume come from outside the home, and many health experts believe that increasingly large portion sizes and unhealthy ingredients have been significant contributors to obesity in the United States.

“This is one of the most important public health nutrition policies ever to be passed nationally,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Right now, you are totally guessing at what you are getting. This rule will change that.”

The rules are far broader than consumer health advocates had expected, covering food in vending machines and amusement parks, as well as certain prepared foods in supermarkets. They apply to food establishments with 20 or more outlets, including fast-food chains like KFC and Subway and sit-down restaurants like Applebee’s and The Cheesecake Factory.

Perhaps the most surprising element of the new rules was the inclusion of alcoholic beverages, which had not been part of an earlier proposal. Beverages served in food establishments that are on menus and menu boards will be included, but a mixed drink at a bar will not, F.D.A. officials said.

“It’s much tougher than the original,” said Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “I’m amazed. It never occurred to me that alcohol would make it in.”

The new rules will take effect a year from now, and seem likely to face legal and political challenges from some parts of the food industry, including grocery and convenience stores that sell prepared foods for takeout.

Menu labeling became law in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act, and the F.D.A. issued a proposal for how it should be put into effect the following year. But the final rules were delayed for three years, in part because of fierce opposition from pizza and movie theater chains.

The release of the rules just weeks after the midterm elections prompted some advocates to suggest that politics might help explain the rules’ timing and toughness. The administration backed away from covering movie theaters in 2011, the year before the last presidential election, when the Obama administration was keen to avoid giving Republicans ammunition for the charge that it was too quick to impose unnecessary and costly regulations.

The rules apply to prepared foods sold in groceries and convenience stores that are intended to feed one person, such as a sandwich or a salad, but not to items like loaves of bread or a rotisserie chicken.

On the surface, I suppose, the idea of requiring companies that sell food provide nutritional information about what they’re selling. This logic would seem to become more compelling when you take into account the fact that issues like obesity and diabeatis are becoming problems for Americans at an increasingly younger age. Given the popularity of dining outside the home, something which can be attested to just by driving past an Olive Garden, Applebees, or Ruby Tuesday, or fast food establishments like McDonald’s on a random evening, advocates argue that consumers should have the opportunity to be aware of the caloric and other content of the food they are thinking of ordering. Notwithstanding that logic, though, there are several problems with the idea of mandatory labeling that calls into question whether the requirements will accomplish anything other than increasing the cost of doing business, especially for smaller business for whom operating on the margins is a far bigger deal than large national restaurant chains. We know this because the PPACA is not the first effort to require calorie and other information be placed on menus, it’s already been tried in cities like New York City and the results there are, at best, highly questionable. At 2011 report on the impact of a menu labeling law in suburban Maryland, for example, found that it had almost no impact on consumer choices, and the results were the same in a study of the impact of a Philadelphia menu law. In short, the law found that people who were frequenting restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory were already pretty well aware that the things they were ordering were high in fat and calories — I mean, what else would you expect at a place that has Cheesecake right there in its name, right? — but that they didn’t particularly care. Either it wasn’t a personal priority for them, or they were splurging on something they might not otherwise eat at home. The same was largely true of people buying burgers from establishments like Five Guys. The American people, it turns out, aren’t quite as ill-informed as the “public health advocates” behind these labeling laws assume them to be and, even when provided with the information about how “unhealthy” the food they order might be, they still decide that they’re able to, well, decide for themselves.

What’s remarkable about the new rules, though, is that they go well beyond just requiring restaurants to put nutritional information on menus. The extension of the regulations to cover alcoholic beverages sold in restaurants, for example, is likely to become a complicated issue as arguments develop over how exactly that that is going to be measured in situations where the composition of cocktails can vary from time to time depending on what a customer orders. Applying the regulations to pizza also seems like it is going to be complicated due to the fact that most major national chains allow people to custom order their pizza now. And, finally, applying the rules to prepared foods sold in grocery stores is likely to cause grocers to move away from offering prepared fresh foods for sale in favor of packaged food that is likely to be higher in salt, fat, and preservatives:

“We’re extremely disappointed,” said Rob Rosado, director of government relations for the Food Marketing Institute, which represents thousands of supermarkets and grocery wholesalers.

Rosado said 95 percent of food in grocery stores comes with nutrition information, thanks to a 1990 law that required labels on packaged foods, and that prepared foods represent only a fraction of each store’s business. Requiring labels for fresh food made in grocery stores, delis and bakeries could cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars in signage, worker training and laboratory tests to determine the calories in each dish, he said. He thinks it also might prompt stores to carry fewer freshly made items to avoid the regulatory headaches.

“You’re penalizing any kind of freshness. . . . It’s going to be replaced with prepackaged food,” Rosado said. “It’s going to have a negative impact for grocery store consumers.”

Lyle Denniston, meanwhile, looks at this issue from the legal perspective, and the question of whether or not these new regulations are authorized under the Constitution:

The FDA clearly operates on the assumption that it has authority from Congress to do what it is doing, and thus silently assumes that it must be acceptable under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.  The agency noted that it has had authority from Congress since 1990 to require nutrition labels on food, and that the Affordable Care Act extended that authority to restaurant menus and vending machines.

Restaurant food, of course, does contain ingredients that move across state borders, so it is an item that might be thought covered by the regulatory power granted by the Commerce Clause.

But the underlying policy rationale for this new regulatory regime appears to be something more than the interstate movement of, say, the potatoes that become French fries. The use of the phrase “obesity epidemic” in some of the agency’s policy statements is a clue to what it is thinking. By labeling the problem of an overweight America as similar to some other form of social menace, it places its authority over restaurant menus in the same category, for example, as the marketing of carelessly compounded drugs or of cancer-causing tobacco.

It may be that a child entering a fast-food restaurant will be quite unaware of how fattening that experience may potentially be, but it can hardly be a surprise to any adult who has paid even the slightest attention to the media blitz over obesity.   At least for a good many people who indulge in fast food, it is a matter of consumer choice.   The government, presumably, has the authority to try to influence that choice, but no one is likely to suggest that the government could constitutionally close down the restaurant chains to give it even more influence.

The FDA, no doubt, is convinced that it is not substituting its regulatory judgment for the tastes of the American food consumer.   But of such assumptions is constitutional controversy born. It was not long ago that the Affordable Care Act was mired in such controversy as its critics likened its insurance mandates to compelling Americans to eat broccoli. Eating healthy, it seems, is a matter of private choice – even as a constitutional matter.

The Constitutionality of these menu requirements is one that has yet to be tested in Court. In no small part, of course, this is because a case against the F.D.A. would not be ripe for consideration by a Federal Court until the final round of regulations was released. Now that this has happened, it’s probable that we will see at least some legal challenge to what the agency is purporting to do here. In the past, of course, the Federal Government’s assertion of the Commerce Clause power would have been sufficient to defeat virtually any challenge of a law such as this. However, it’s worth remembering that when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate in 2012 its decision did so in a way that read the Commerce Clause power in a much narrower way than it had in the past. This is why, in the end, Chief Justice Roberts was required to look to Congressional taxing power to save the individual mandate, because he, along with four other Justices, had concluded that it could not be justified under the Commerce Clause. Would the same fate befall the menu requirements? That’s hard to say without researching the matter further, but as Denniston notes it is exceedingly difficult to say how these menu requirements are something that ought to be seen as falling within the proper powers of Congress unless you stretch the interpretation of those powers beyond all logical meaning.

The most important thing about these requirements, though, is that they seem to me to be entirely unnecessary, costly to businesses for no good reason, and in the end potentially harmful. Despite the fact that there have been plenty of jurisdictions that have enacted them and studies from those laws that show that it has no real impact on consumer behavior. Indeed, now there’s good reason to believe that the menu rules may actually make the food choices that consumers have less healthy, especially if they are indeed expanded to cover grocery stores as the FDA is purporting to do here. That last possibility doesn’t even appear to be something that the FDA considered in drafting rules that seem to go well beyond what Congress intended when it authorized the agency to do this in the PPACA itself. The most important fact that the FDA is ignoring, though, is the fact that the American people are likely far more aware of the food choices they are making than bureaucrats think they are and that these laws that are clearly designed to try to change behavior are not likely to have the impact that the people who favor Nanny State regulations like this would like them to.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    As I commented on James’ old Chipotle menu post, this represents “the tyranny of forcing businesses to spend not much money providing imprecise information.” The horror.

    A question – if providing calorie labeling will have no impact, why has the liquor industry fought it tooth and nail for decades?

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  2. anjin-san says:

    Personally, the more I know about products that I am going to put in my body, the better.

    “The Food Marketing Institute” – This kind of says it all. The grocery and food manufacturing industries clearly do not want transparency for the products they sell. Why is giving the consumer the ability to make informed decisions a bad thing? I am not seeing it.

    and studies from those laws that show that it has no real impact on consumer behavior

    I would be interested in knowing who funded these studies, seeing as they say pretty much exactly what the grocery and restaurant industries would like them to say.

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  3. Tyrell says:

    If a customer wants to know the fat/ calories of Whopper, Thickburger, bbq ribs, or a Big Mac; they are in the wrong restaurant. Maybe they should head to some restaurant that specializes in French food, where they can get snails sauteed in wine or something like that where you get about three bites of food and it will cost you around $100.
    Actually sodium is more serious than calories, yet you don’t hear much about that. And we just wonder why that is?
    Who actually goes into a fast food hamburger joint to eat health food ? I don’t eat at McDonalds very often. I will drop in for coffee and apple pie. I love the atmosphere there. For food, my choice is the Bell – that place rocks!
    Just more government meddling into business and people’s personal lives. Next they will pass some sort of laws and you will get arrested for eating a Big Mac , fries, dough nuts, or Girl Scout cookies.
    Who dreams these phony laws up? Some congressman or bureaucrat with nothing to do but waste tax payer money. They are wanting all these food laws (Bloomberg’s soft drink laws), then turn around and talk about legalizing marijuana. Something is wrong somewhere.

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  4. stonetools says:

    This seems like Part XXXIX in the libertarians’ long war against any and all safety regulations.Remember when libertarians argued that mandatory seat belt laws were worse than Communism and people should have the freedom to fly through windshields , endure coma-producing head injuries, and inflict the treatment costs on the rest of us? Remember when Milton Friedman argued against FDA regulations saying that drugs should be allowed on the market without extensive government testing and requiring only certification by the drug companies that they tested them? Then came thalidomimide, and that shut up Friedman and the libertarians for a time.Now they are back to protest food lavbelling as another example of the “nanny state.”

    Seriously, why have any food labeling at all?Because it’s been found necessary. Food labelling has existed in one way or another way, since the days of the Roman Empire. Pretty much from day one, businesses have complained about food labelling, claiming its useless, costly, imprecise, and that it would drive people out of business.

    The pervasive nature of the problem in the early twentieth century
    is evident in the humorous testimony of an executive of a food distribution company. Speaking before the
    House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce to oppose passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug
    Act, he stated , “make us leave preservatives and coloring matter out of our food and call our products by
    the right name and you will bankrupt every food industry in the country.”

    Now is nutrition labeling a panacea in the very real struggle against the pubblic health problem of obesity? Surely no, but it’s a nudge in the right direction.
    Giving consumers more information about the food they buy is, if anything, a good thing, making for a better market. One of the most enduring problems in the market for food is the assymetry of information between the seller, who knows exactly what goes into the food-and the buyer, who usually doesn’t get to closely inspect it beforehand. Food labeling helps bridge that assymetry.

    There is a certain brilliance to the NLEA in giving food manufacturers and, to an even greater extent,
    supermarkets, a new role as consumer educators. In response to the NLEA, the National Food Processors
    Association, one of the largest and most in
    uential food trade organizations, began a collaborative effort
    within the industry to develop a food label education guide to help consumers understand new nutrition labeling. Supermarkets educated their own employees, so that industry workers who dealt most directly with
    consumers could help the consumers make responsible choices given all the information at their disposal
    thanks to the new labels. Other supermarket operators prepared to recruit dieticians from local hospitals to
    lead educational tours through stores. Some in the industry see this new educational role as a logical outgrowth
    of existing consumer-oriented activities, others are concerned that this new educational role will turn
    the people we have working in our bakeries into doctors, with consumers expecting supermarket employees
    to make a critical health decision for them. In the environment created by the NLEA, food merchants understood
    the need to educate their employees and their customers in order to survive in a market inundated
    with nutrition information.

    We will see how this works out, but I have a feeling, based on history, that these regulations will prove more useful and less costly than the libertarians would have us believe.

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  5. grumpy realist says:

    Um–actually, a lot of people DON’T have a good idea of how many calories are in the foodstuff they eat. I was quite surprised when I saw how many calories are in one slice of gingerbread as sold by Starbucks. I would have estimated half the calories that are actually in it.

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  6. Moosebreath says:

    @stonetools:

    “This seems like Part XXXIX in the libertarians’ long war against any and all safety regulations.”

    Yep. And of course, part of the Libertarian belief set is that the free market creates the best of all possible worlds. But when confronted with a choice between mandating the necessary info for free markets to work and cutting into the profits of the wealthy, guess which Libertarians choose.

    Every single effing time.

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  7. anjin-san says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I was quite surprised when I saw how many calories are in one slice of gingerbread as sold by Starbucks

    Funny, that is the exact same example that came to my mind when I saw this post. I used to buy Starbucks snacks to go with my coffee, now I don’t. I can’t imagine why the grocery and food service industries are so opposed to these sort of regulations :)

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  8. Ha Nguyen says:

    Before going to any restaurant, my friend will research the nutritional information from the menu offered on-line. If there is no such information or if there are no acceptable food offerings, we don’t go to that restaurant.

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  9. James Pearce says:

    At this point in life, I care about calorie counts about as much as I care about how Sasha and Malia are dressed at the turkey pardoning.

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  10. JKB says:

    This is the Ignorant Progressive Dining Out Law. It was several years ago when young Ezra Klein reported his absolute inability to comprehend calories when food products are combined.

    On first glance, I would have figure the salmon for the lightest entree, followed by the chicken piccata, the carbonara, and the crispy beef. Not so.

    Really, the moron thought carbonara would be a low-cal dish. Let’s see a dish made with pasta, cheese, eggs, bacon and sometimes cream. I’m not seeing the low cal ingredients so the math so many denigrate would indicate that combining several high calorie ingredients the resulting summation would be high calorie. I guess he was looking for some food alchemy?

    But this is just another Democrat (remember no Republicans voted for the Obamacare atrocity), plan to make life expensive for those who work for a living and might on occasion like a night out without having to cook. Also, this cost will mean less money for salaries so fewer workers.

    I do see this as yet another reason to start pushing for Congress to revisit all agency authorizing legislation and to rein in those areas where the agencies have inappropriately expanded their interpretations of the law.

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  11. Cd6 says:

    I like calorie labeling. I use it to break the tie when I can’t decide between a couple things on the menu

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  12. Tyrell says:

    @anjin-san: I am not that crazy about these regulations either. I do look at the health inspection grade, but that is it. When I go out to eat, it is to enjoy myself and eat what I desire. And I don’t eat out often. These new rules could just lead to more laws that carry penalties for eating, cooking, and possessing certain foods: Cheetos, popcorn, cupcakes, soft drinks, and cookies to name a few.

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  13. JKB says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Your ignorance doesn’t mean we need a law or regulation. You just need to try to not be so ignorant. Or is it your claim that Starbucks was putting some uncommonly high calorie ingredient in place of the common ingredients of Gingerbread?

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  14. stonetools says:

    @anjin-san:

    We should trust the food companies to know what’s in our best interest and to disclose to us only the information we need to know-just like we should trust the tobacco industry. Of course, libertarians thought anti smoking regulations were a waste of time and unfairly burdened the good old tobacco companies too.

    There isn’t a major big business interest out there that libertarians won’t rush to protect at the expense of the consumer-generally in the name of FREEDOM! That’s just how it is.

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  15. anjin-san says:

    @JKB:

    Your ignorance doesn’t mean we need a law or regulation. You just need to try to not be so ignorant.

    It’s a crowded field, but this may be the stupidest comment so far today.

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  16. stonetools says:

    @JKB:

    You just need to try to not be so ignorant.

    So you can know how many calories there are in a slice of gingerbread just by looking at it? How does work-like Superman’s XRay vision? Or do you just hover your hand over it and the answer magically comes to you?

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  17. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    No. No it can’t, and no it won’t.

    Every so often I think “Well there has to be limits to what wingnuts can freak out about, right? Surely something as simple as–say–letting the consumer know what’s in the food they eat is a sensible thing.”

    Peak Wingnut is a lie.

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  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    JKB’s argument is actually “Someone admitted to not knowing what’s in his food, therefore labels that tell us whats in our food is a bad idea.”

    That is breathtaking in it’s stupidity.

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  19. Katharsis says:

    Libertarians, and those with a fetish for the 2nd amendment, are extremly susceptible to the perfect solution fallacy. If it’s not a magic bullet, why bother?

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  20. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: Yeah. I thought the lemon pound cake was a good choice ’til Starbucks started posting calories. Turned out to be one of the worst things in the case. I occasionally eat a chocolate croissant, which sounds awful, but is one of the lowest calorie choices.

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  21. stonetools says:

    @James Pearce:

    At this point in life, I care about calorie counts about as much as I care about how Sasha and Malia are dressed at the turkey pardoning

    Well, we can SEE that :-).

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  22. James Pearce says:

    @JKB:

    “Your ignorance doesn’t mean we need a law or regulation. You just need to try to not be so ignorant.”

    Such a brilliant comment.

    I don’t give a rip about calorie counts. Have em, don’t have em. But it’s pretty obvious that “trying to get people to not be so ignorant” is the entire point of the law.

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  23. Jack says:

    This is much like the 2009-2013 case where the FDA mandated that cigarette manufacturers must place graphic warning labels on the entire top half (front and back) of all cigarette packages. The government lost on free speech grounds.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/fdas-graphic-cigarette-labels-rule-goes-up-in-smoke-after-us-abandons-appeal/

    This also reminds me of a skit by comedian Dennis Leary, and I’m paraphrasing, “You could have black pack with a skull and cross bones on it and call them the tumors and people would still be lining up around the block to buy them.”

    At some point, people stop caring about what is in products, especially food which they have grown to enjoy, just because some authority figure says it’s not healthy. If you are pro choice, then be, pro choice.

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  24. gVOR08 says:

    @Katharsis: One of the good things about liberals is that they try to do good things, and if they fall short, well, not much harm done. Conservatives, on the other hand, always seem to want to do bad things, like, say, invade Iraq. And when they fall short, great harm has been done.

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  25. Ben Johannson says:

    The requirement will be of little utility to the already health conscious upper-middle class while doing very little for the lower-middle and poor most at risk for obesity and the comorbid disorders which accompany it. It’s largely a waste of time better spent on shifting subsidies from junk foods to healhier choices, but good luck getting that to happen.

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  26. James Pearce says:

    @stonetools:

    Well, we can SEE that :-).

    Ha! Well, as Louis CK says, “The meal’s not over when I’m full. The meal’s not over until I hate myself.”

    That said, if there were calorie counts on menus, I wouldn’t look at them. I obviously just don’t care.

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  27. Tony W says:

    I, for one, have made huge changes in my habits since calorie labeling came to my state – but I can see why the food industry hates the idea – and it has nothing to do with the cost of signage.

    It is FAR easier to make good decisions with proper information. I routinely skip over the pastry at Starbucks if I know it’s 300-500 calories. I tried a new chain restaurant last year and decided I hated the place – probably because I ordered the lowest calorie thing I could find and it tasted like crap. Have not been back since.

    Finally, a note about Libertarian philosophy: Wouldn’t a libertarian want interested consumers to be in a strong position make the best choices for themselves based on the best information available?

    It’s almost like they’re not really about building a live-and-let-live society, but in truth are about zero-regulation for business and no oversight for states that want to subjugate the poor.

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  28. al-Ameda says:

    Maybe the lowest cost solution for libertarians and conservatives is to place their hands over their eyes whenever they’re confronted with labeling or menus that give the calorie count?

    Why is it a bad idea for consumers to be provided calorie information? At the grocery store I quite often look at the labels to ascertain sugar, salt and calorie content, why not for menus also? I still make the decision to purchase (or not) the meal or the product. It’s good to know more, not less.

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  29. anjin-san says:

    Two good resources for people who want to know more about the food (and mock food) they consume:

    http://www.fooducate.com

    http://foodbabe.com

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  30. gVOR08 says:

    @Tony W:

    Wouldn’t a libertarian want interested consumers to be in a strong position make the best choices for themselves based on the best information available?

    A rational Libertarian would. But you wisely continued your comment discussing the Libertarians we actually have.

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  31. Trumwill says:

    I like calorie counts. I use them and find them very convenient and am genuinely surprised that they don’t actually seem to work. As nice as I find them, I can’t really justify them if they don’t actually have any measurable (desired) effect in the aggregate.

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  32. C. Clavin says:

    Does this mean Doug would like to eliminate octane ratings on gasoline, and side-effect warnings on medicine? I mean…a lot of people take boner pills even though they may cause blindness, deafness, of seizures. Does that mean we shouldn’t inform people about what they are taking, because they’re gonna take them anyway? Big pharma would like that, I’m sure.

    I’m not sure how an informed consumer is a bad thing in the eyes of a Libertarian? It seems to me that a wide distribution of information would be an important goal.

    I mean, I like to think I know a thing or two about food…but I was recently shocked to find out that an individual sized deep dish pizza at a Uno Chicago Grill can have up to 2300 calories and 165 grams of fat. It seems to me that telling an unsuspecting consumer about that might be a good thing.

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  33. ernieyeball says:

    Something needs to be done about Le Hollandais Restaurant!

    Lust…Murder…Dessert
    ……..Bon Appetit!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP-VumkuYHY

    NSW also spoilers

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  34. Kari Q says:

    @JKB:

    JKB, you should go and actually read the original article that James linked to. Klein did not, ever, say he thought that carbonara was a low calorie dish. The dishes mentioned were from an article written by someone else, and he merely guessed which of those dishes would have the most calories. He got the order wrong, as most of us would.

    It is actually not easy to figure out how many calories are in a dish in a restaurant. Providing that information means that those of us who actually do care about how many calories we are eating can find something that fits into our diet, even when we are eating at a fast food place. Really, I do not understand why everyone reacts with horror at the idea of making information available. People might make informed decisions? Tyranny!

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  35. Grewgills says:

    Notwithstanding that logic, though, there are several problems with the idea of mandatory labeling that calls into question whether the requirements will accomplish anything other than increasing the cost of doing business, especially for smaller business for whom operating on the margins is a far bigger deal than large national restaurant chains.

    You included the bit where this is for chains with 20 or more locations. Where does the small business operating on the margin come in for you? 50? 100? 1000 locations? more?

    The extension of the regulations to cover alcoholic beverages sold in restaurants, for example, is likely to become a complicated issue as arguments develop over how exactly that that is going to be measured in situations where the composition of cocktails can vary from time to time depending on what a customer orders.

    I take it you haven’t worked in a chain bar or restaurant in the past 10-20 years. Virtually all of them and many non chain restaurants with high volume business are very exacting in their recipes and the bartenders use measured shot pourers. It is not difficult to calculate the calories. The mixers and juices are standard as is the alcohol. Once you know the calorie content of each and the measures of each in the menu drinks it is down to pretty simple math. If the bartender over or under pours a little on a special order it would qualify as a mixed bar drink that is excepted in the regulation.

    Applying the regulations to pizza also seems like it is going to be complicated due to the fact that most major national chains allow people to custom order their pizza now.

    Have you noticed that when you go into a Subway and order a sandwich the meat and cheese are presliced and set up to be easily put on the sandwiches and how they are able to give reasonably accurate calorie counts despite some marginal differences in the amount of lettuce or tomato added? Why do you think this would be difficult for Dominoes or Pizza Hut? Do you really think that they don’t already have set amounts of toppings for price control and consistency?

    And, finally, applying the rules to prepared foods sold in grocery stores is likely to cause grocers to move away from offering prepared fresh foods for sale in favor of packaged food that is likely to be higher in salt, fat, and preservatives

    Again, let Subway and Starbucks be your guide here. It is not so hard as they are making it out to be.

    The most important thing about these requirements, though, is that they seem to me to be entirely unnecessary, costly to businesses for no good reason

    Do you feel the same about the labels on canned, jarred, and frozen foods? About meat inspection? etc

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  36. ernieyeball says:

    @Trumwill:..I can’t really justify them if they don’t actually have any measurable (desired) effect in the aggregate.

    None of that matters.
    This is all about do gooders and busy bodies who truly believe that some citizens can not make these choices for themselves and need to be protected from their own decisions.

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  37. Grewgills says:

    @Kari Q:

    It is actually not easy to figure out how many calories are in a dish in a restaurant.

    The number or calories and the salt content is usually considerably higher than when the same dish is prepared at home. Even if one knows the amount of calories in the various ingredients, assuming all are listed, most would underestimate the amount of fat and salt by a fair bit.

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  38. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:
    BS, it is about letting people make informed decisions. When we walk down the frozen food aisle or the canned food aisle in the supermarket we can read the labels and make an informed decision. If you go to a large chain restaurant that is basically what you are getting. The food comes to the franchise location prepared, you are generally buying frozen/packaged food that someone else heats up and puts together. It is easy enough for the companies that put that same type of food in your grocery store to label it. It is no more difficult for Burger King or Pizza Hut. There is a reason that it is so easy for the large chains to put their entrees in the freezer section for you.

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  39. Tyrell says:

    @al-Ameda: I read labels on food bags and wrappers too. It’s amazing that a candy bar can have less fat and sugar than many other regular foods.I just don’t think the governent should require it to be placed on menus or the wrappers. McDonalds already has their nutritional information posted on the wall, on line, and on brochures that are free. I think that is sufficient. I just don’t want this to wind up going from rules for businesses to rules for my kitchen and what kind of foods that I can eat or cook.

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  40. humanoid.panda says:

    @Jack: “If you are pro choice, then be, pro choice”

    Labels and calory counts != bans
    .
    How hard is that to comprehend?

    Also, with all due respect to the public health policy health chops of Dennis Leary, smoking among adult Americans cratered in the last 3 decades or so. Maybe the librul eggheads know what they are doing.

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  41. humanoid.panda says:

    @Tyrell:

    I just don’t want this to wind up going from rules for businesses to rules for my kitchen and what kind of foods that I can eat or cook.

    I said it before and I will say it again: Tyrell is just a a Leonardo of the art of trolling.

    Either that, or he had eaten way too many paint chips as a child.

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  42. ernieyeball says:

    The Internet is a wonderful thing.
    All anyone has to do is search:

    http://www.chilis.com/EN/LocationSpecificPDF/MenuPDF/001.005.0000/Chilis%20Nutrition%20Menu%20Generic.pdf

    http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf

    http://popeyes.com/menu/nutrition

    I can’t wait for Popeyes to return to Sleepytown. Red Beans and Rice…Ain’t it nice!

    WT.(g) 438..CALORIES 690..FAT (g) 42..SAT FAT (g) 12..TRANS FAT (g) 0..
    CHOLESTEROL (mg) 30..SODIUM (mg) 1740..CARBS (g) 69..DIETARY FIBER (g) 15..
    SUGAR (g) 0..PROTEIN (g) 21

    The information is available now.

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  43. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    I just don’t want this to wind up going from rules for businesses to rules for my kitchen and what kind of foods that I can eat or cook.

    It’s because of this sort of nonsense that we can’t have nice things.

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  44. James Pearce says:

    @ernieyeball: “This is all about do gooders and busy bodies who truly believe that some citizens can not make these choices for themselves and need to be protected from their own decisions.”

    No argument about the do gooders and the busy bodies, but I’m not sure that “some citizens can not make these choices for themselves and need to be protected from their own decisions” is really in that much dispute. Some liberals want calorie counts. Some conservatives want to drug test welfare recipients.

    Almost nobody believes that everybody is capable of making choices and doesn’t need, at one time or another, to be protected from their own decisions.

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  45. wr says:

    @ernieyeball: “This is all about do gooders and busy bodies who truly believe that some citizens can not make these choices for themselves and need to be protected from their own decisions. ”

    Yes, giving consumers the information they need to make an informed choice is exactly the same as protecting them from having to choose.

    It must be fun to be a “conservative.” Does gravity make thing float up?

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  46. Mikey says:

    @anjin-san:

    http://foodbabe.com

    No, no, a thousand times, no. Avoid that site at all costs. There are few websites with more straight-up bullshit. You’d get a higher level of factual reliability at The Onion.

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  47. ernieyeball says:

    @wr:It must be fun to be a “conservative.” Does gravity make thing float up?

    As I have stated many times, I am an anarchist. Got no use for laws…except for the law of gravity.

    Tides are the rise and fall of sea levels caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of the Earth.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide
    The gravity of the moon makes the water “float” up. Away from the surface of the Earth towards the mass of the moon.

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  48. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:

    I can’t wait for Popeyes to return to Sleepytown. Red Beans and Rice…Ain’t it nice!

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  49. Grewgills says:

    @wr:
    If you think he is a conservative rather than a smart ass, you need to recalibrate your snark detector.

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  50. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills: Thanks gill. I’d rather B a smart ass than a dumbass!

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  51. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills:..Oh yeah, great tune! I eat with my fingers “like an African Soldier” all the time.

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  52. JKB says:

    It occurs to me that this will push forward the deployment of electronic menus and ordering thus putting Liberal Arts majors out of work everywhere.

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  53. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    especially for smaller business for whom operating on the margins is a far bigger deal

    Umm…Doug, could you help me out with which ones of the businesses with 20 or more outlets the “smaller business(es) for whom…” are? Or are you just slippery sloping?

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  54. DrDaveT says:

    @Tony W:

    It’s almost like [libertarians aren’t] really about building a live-and-let-live society, but in truth are about zero-regulation for business and no oversight for states that want to subjugate the poor.

    Duh. There are no poor Libertarians. Libertarians are all privileged kids who assume that they’ll always be on the “doing unto others” side, not the “getting done to” side.

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  55. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Just ‘nutha’ ig’rant cracker: Just to clarity–I’m more or less on the same page as James Pierce on the issue overall. I don’t pay attention to the calorie count information very much as I only “eat out” for the two weeks that I’m in the States, but the whole “we gotta protect the small entrepreneur” red herring is starting to vex me some. A guy with 20 outlets is no longer “running on the margins” to any degree other than that which all businesses do.

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  56. anjin-san says:

    @JKB:

    Your envy of educated people never fails to shine through.

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  57. grumpy realist says:

    @JKB: Actually, quite often commercial products ARE higher in calorie counts than the made-from-scratch versions. Reasons for this: substitution of oil for butter, requiring more oil to be added to get the same “mouth” feel, use of high-fructose corn syrup , substitution of non-butter fats for butter in frosting (which changes the taste, so they usually compensate by slathering on thicker layers), other stuff added to encourage further eating, and finally, much larger portions.

    P.S. restaurants also have a tendency to add extra fat or sugar to their dishes. it’s called “the hidden 100”.

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  58. Tyrell says:

    After looking at the photo over and over, I couldn’t take it. I went out and got a Whopper, supersized of course. Must be that sublimal message thing.
    They had a nutritional information flyer posted.
    “Have it your way”

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  59. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    The fact that you are so easily manipulated explains your unwavering support of Republican policy and positions.

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  60. stonetools says:

    Overnight, I thought of one reason why nutritional labeling might be considered essential-people with food allergies. My wife is allergic to peanuts and soy. A peanut allergy is serious business-if she eats peanut products, she could die! In that case , such labeling could be very important, since often she can’t tell ahead of time whether some restaurant menu item might have a peanut product. (She is always asking).As to soy allergies, soy is all over the place-cans of tuna have soy in them- so again, its not obvious which products have soy in them.

    To people with food allergies, food labeling is like drug labeling for drugs to regular folks-a way to avoid a product that could hurt or even kill them.And there is no libertarian who isn’t in favor of drug labeling for the drugs they take.In that case, of course, that’s not the “nanny state” or “petty, wasteful regulation “-that’s a necessary state function. Funny, that.

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  61. Neil Hudelson says:

    @JKB:

    I have spent the last 3 years running a continent wide campaign for one of the biggest humanitarian missions of this century. Before that I ran what all records indicate was the most efficient voter registration campaign ever enacted in one of the largest cities in the nation.

    For both I was paid a salary that’s not just high for my age group, but would be considered “extremely comfortable” for just about anyone in the U.S.

    And I’m not even 30.

    I was able to do this because of the knowledge and experience gained through my Liberal Arts degree.

    What has your degree got you?

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  62. Pinky says:

    @Tyrell: That picture looks like a Whopper Junior, based on the curve of the bun, and the proportion of the vegetables to the burger.

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  63. ernieyeball says:
  64. James Pearce says:

    @ernieyeball: Available to you, with your internet connection and curiosity. Wouldn’t it be awesome if this information was also available on the menu?

    (Seriously, dude…..you seem to have no problem with calorie counts…as long as they’re on the web and no big bad government agency is requiring them. It’s a rather ridiculous position, really. Better left arguing it’s a burdensome requirement rather than “the information is already available in a more inconvenient location.” At least you’d have a less ridiculous point.)

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  65. ernieyeball says:

    @James Pearce:.. Available to you, with your internet connection and curiosity.

    Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, Micky D’s, Burger King, Panera and locally owned outlets like Cristaudo’s and Fat Patty’s all have Wi-Fi internet connections. When I go to those beaneries I see all kinds of people using their cell phones for all kinds of things. Once I saw someone actually look up nutritional information for the diner they were in. It must have been a real trial for them since they had to call 911 for emergency treatment of a sprained finger.
    I’m the laziest MF’er on the planet. If I can find this info others can too.
    If you look at the links I provided you can see that to provide all that data the menu would be as thick as “War and Peace”.
    Which, by the way, one can download off the internet.
    http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/war_and_peace/

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  66. ernieyeball says:

    @James Pearce:..and no big bad government agency is requiring them.

    Please don’t speak for me.

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  67. ernieyeball says:
  68. Rafer Janders says:

    @ernieyeball:

    So basically your position is that this information is so easily accessible to get that it’s a big burden for the companies to provide it?

    You realize that that makes no sense whatsoever, right?

    (That’s not even getting into the argument that collectively, it’s much cheaper and more efficient for a company which already has this information to provide it once than for a million consumers each to waste a minute looking it up).

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  69. James Pearce says:

    @ernieyeball:

    all have Wi-Fi internet connections

    You have not explained why you prefer the complicated “wifi+websearch” method over the “just read it on the menu” method.

    I’m not going to speak for you, Ernie, but I’m also not going to assume your explanation is going to make much sense either. So let’s hear it.

    Or you could just link to another calorie count. I don’t care.

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  70. ernieyeball says:

    @James Pearce:..I’m not going to speak for you,..

    Allow me to rephrase…

    …and no big bad government agency is requiring them.

    Please show where I have ever used the characterization “big bad government agency” in any post on OTB or anywhere else.

    …complicated “wifi+websearch”

    First you claim I am curious. I’m certain others are too. Now it’s complicated to do a web search. Must be why nobody uses the internet.

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  71. ernieyeball says:

    @Rafer Janders:..it’s a big burden for the companies to provide it?

    They already do provide it.
    I dunno maybe it is more efficient to print up menus with pages made from trees and ink.

    Three main environmental issues with ink are: (per WikiP)
    Heavy metals
    Non-renewable oils
    Volatile organic compounds

    The menus are then transported by trucks and planes that burn fossil fuels.
    I guess that’s the way to go. No point in using a technology that would conserve those resources.

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  72. ernieyeball says:

    Looking for nutritional info for Atelier Crenn on Fillmore at Pixley in The City. (Marina Dist.?) Not posted on their web site. Maybe we should send Anjin-San over there to be sure it’s on the menu.
    http://www.ateliercrenn.com

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  73. James Pearce says:

    @ernieyeball:

    The menus are then transported by trucks and planes that burn fossil fuels.

    Now you’re just trolling.

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  74. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:
    The menus at places like McDonald’s are generally on the wall and are replaced periodicially so the ink and trees are already going to be used. The hand out menus at sit down restaurants are also periodically replaced adding a line for calorie count isn’t going to substantially increase the menu size. They can plan it and put it in the pipeline with very little additional cost and no extra paper.

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  75. ernieyeball says:

    This is a link to Applebee’s internet nutritional information page. Looks like about 9 pages of data to me. A bit more than a line or two.
    https://www.applebees.com/~/media/docs/Applebees_Nutritional_Info.pdf

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  76. ernieyeball says:

    @James Pearce:..Now you’re just trolling.

    You’re right. Trucks and planes don’t use fossil fuels. They run on Unicorn farts.

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  77. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills:..They can plan it and put it in the pipeline with very little additional cost and no extra paper.

    Since you seem to know, how much is “very little additional cost” in US $?

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  78. James Pearce says:

    Shorter Ernie: Why, yes, I am a troll. And to prove it, here’s my next comment…..

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  79. ernieyeball says:

    @James Pearce: U wouldn’t have it any other way and U no it.

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  80. Tyrell says:

    For an example of the effects of regulation gone haywire, think about the public school “nutrition” program. School lunches cost more, portions are smaller, and the food is not nearly as good as it used to be. It also is usually prepared at a central site and delivered to the schools to be warmed up. $1.00 for a “tossed salad” and you are given a handful of nothing but shriveled up lettuce. Think about this: the school lunches have really gone down the last few years. And just how could that be ?
    I could elaborate, pontificate, and regurgitate more on the schools “nutrition” program but that is a topic for another day.

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  81. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Was that a Whopper? I never paid any attention at all. The only place that I ever get a burger that looks like that one is at home anyway.

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  82. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:
    The rule asks for calorie counts on menus, not all of the data contained in that PDF. If they were demanding ingredient labeling and breakdown of calories by fat, carb, and protein you might have a point. As it stands you don’t.

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  83. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @ernieyeball: Now the only problem left is where I get the money for the smartphone and the data package that goes with it. But you are right–for people of the right means, there’s no problem.

    BTW, you should stop now. Your arugment is becoming stupid and redundant.

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  84. Grewgills says:

    @Tyrell:

    $1.00 for a “tossed salad”

    That’s a bargain, I hear those go for a carton of cigarettes in prison.

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  85. ernieyeball says:

    I’ve been watching the Bulls and the Mavericks kick each others asses into overtime.
    Sure beats hanging out with all you whistledicks.
    Next I’m going to watch the Raptors and Kings pound each other in Sacramento.
    Smell ya’ later.

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  86. bill says:

    trying to prepare a la carte foods within the given caloric range is pretty tough on a grand scale, there’d have to be a 15-20% variation and that would render these charts moot.-at least until the robots take over and suck the life out of everything.

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