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March 23, 2010

Big Nanny stands ready to criticize your food choices

AP (via Yahoo) reports on one of the mandates buried in the health care “reform” signed today by the president:
A requirement tucked into the massive U.S health care bill will make calorie counts impossible for thousands of restaurants to hide and difficult for consumers to ignore. More than 200,000 fast food and other chain restaurants will have to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards and even drive-throughs.
The new law, which applies to any restaurant with 20 or more locations, directs the Food and Drug Administration to create a new national standard for menu labeling, superseding a growing number of state and city laws. President Barack Obama signed the health care legislation Tuesday.
The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are ordering. Many restaurants currently post nutritional information in a hallway, on a hamburger wrapper or on their Web site. The new law will make calories immediately available for most items.
"The nutrition information is right on the menu or menu board next to the name of the menu item, rather than in a pamphlet or in tiny print on a poster, so that consumers can see it when they are making ordering decisions," says Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, who wrote the provision.
“The idea is to make sure that customers process the calorie information as they are ordering.” But what if, despite the new labeling, the customer still ignores the calorie information?  The administration (led by Gen. Michelle Obama) has declared war on obesity, so I can’t imagine it standing by idly as customers continue to order the foods they like.
So, what’s the next phase of the campaign?  How about “informed consent”?  Customers will not receive their food until they sign a form affirming that they are aware of the calorie impact of their meal.

But what if customers STILL won’t make good food choices? Is it really outlandish to predict that the government will eventually start regulating the maximum calorie content of restaurant meals?
One last thought: as the above excerpt shows, only restaurant chains with 20 or more locations are subject to the labeling requirements. This means that obese people can continue to patronize local non-chain restaurants in blissful (and deadly, if you believe the nannies) ignorance, regardless of the gastronomical atrocities on said restaurants’ menus.
This is an implicit acknowledgment of the fact that compliance with these regulations is awfully expensive.  But, if we accept the notion of the federal government as our food-choice nanny, we cannot protest when the regulations are eventually made universal, even at the expense of the financial stability of our favorite local eatery.  As Hillary Clinton famously said in 1994 regarding the financial impact of the Clinton administration’s attempt to nationalize the health care industry: “I can't be responsible for every undercapitalized small business in America.”

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