The health care bill that was signed into law earlier this week doesn’t exactly stop at health care. Now the government wants to kick it up a notch, by controlling the food we eat and the restaurants where we get it. Buried deep within the health care legislation is a seemingly innocuous regulation that that makes it mandatory for chain restaurants to list (directly on the menu) how many calories are in the items they serve.
An article in USA today explains this new regulation will affect any restaurant with 20 or more locations – that’s over 200,000 restaurants across the country. But is this going to have any real or positive effect on people’s diets? Or is this more of the same government intrusion over personal choice?
The article cites two studies. The first, by the online journal Health Affairs, points to a test area in New York City with high obesity rates where restaurants were asked to label their calorie information. The results were less than promising, as only half of customers in the area even noticed that the restaurants had added the calorie information.
The second study by the American Dietetic Association demonstrates the inaccuracy of previous attempts to measure calories, and cites a survey of 10 chain restaurants, noting that the average calorie count was 18% higher than the amount listed.
But if that still doesn’t convince you this 2000 RAND Corporation study shows that a Los Angeles suburb, with a larger than average obese population, had a smaller percentage of fast food and chain restaurants but a larger concentration of smaller restaurants serving items with calorie counts often triple that of a Big Mac hamburger.
But here’s some more food for thought:
What about measuring all the other unhealthy additives found in food? What about preservatives, trans-fats, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and anything else that is potentially damaging to our diets and overall health? – Things that are sometimes added to our food for the direct purpose of reducing calorie counts and meeting arbitrary food standards.
Or what about those food products that may average more calories, but are low in saturated fat, or contain a high percentage of our daily value of vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy Omega 3s?
If you ask some, they’ll tell you the root cause of obesity in this country is less about the calories we consume and more about the fat content of our food. In fact many point to a more direct correlation between obesity and diets high in saturated fat – here’s a recent article citing one of these studies.
So at what point do people start taking control of their own choices? Because once a regulation like this is set in place – it’s a slippery slope until the government starts mandating 30 minutes on the treadmill daily. Tax credits for treadmills. Don’t suggest that to Obama!