Big Government at it again: FDA proposes two sweeping “calorie count” labeling rules

Calorie Count Requirements

Two proposed rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this morning could radically increase the number of locations that are required to post calorie counts next to food items. Language that was snuck into Obamacare by Democrat Senator Tom Harkin (IA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT) mandates expanded labeling that could reach as far and wide as vending machines, grocery stores, and even more restaurants.

POLITICO reports:

Restaurant chains will soon have to post calories for every dish of chicken Alfredo, every cheeseburger combo, every margarita and most every other item on the menu thanks to new rules from the FDA expected Tuesday.

The two long-delayed and far-reaching regulations will cover foods served at chain restaurants, grocery stores, vending machines and even movie theaters.

But this piece of President Barack Obama’s legacy on food policy won’t take effect without a fight.

Big chain restaurants are on board: They pushed for a national standard to override a patchwork of state and local menu labeling rules. McDonald’s adopted its own nationwide labeling in 2012. But grocery store and convenience store chains, the likes of Whole Foods, Sheetz and 7-Eleven, are expected to put up a fight about slapping calories next to their kale salad, nachos and Big Gulps. Movie theaters and the alcohol industry are also expected to fiercely protest being included in the mandate.

A year from now, the calorie counts will have to be posted on menus right next to food items, including at the drive-thru, and businesses will have to provide more complete nutrition information upon request. The rules apply to chains if they have more than 20 locations.

One regulation advocate who has been fighting for menu labeling for more than a decade said, “This is a landmark public health policy. The Republicans should be all for this. This is not nanny state run amok — this is ensuring that people have the information to make their own choices.”

Yeah, okay.

The mentality of those who want to add calorie counts to everything we eat or drink is — at its very heart — a belief that the state can and should be the benevolent arbiter of what is healthy; that we aren’t smart enough to make our own decisions.

It’s the same mentality Jonathan Gruber exhibited when he noted “the stupidity of the American voter” as an advantage to passing Obamacare.

What they probably haven’t noticed is that mandated calorie labeling doesn’t seem to have an impact on consumer choice. In 2008, New York City was a “pioneer” for mandated labeling. The New York Times reported on a 2009 study of the sweeping regulations:

The study, by several professors at New York University and Yale, tracked customers at four fast-food chains — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken — in poor neighborhoods of New York City where there are high rates of obesity.

It found that about half the customers noticed the calorie counts, which were prominently posted on menu boards. About 28 percent of those who noticed them said the information had influenced their ordering, and 9 out of 10 of those said they had made healthier choices as a result.

But when the researchers checked receipts afterward, they found that people had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect, in July 2008.

The findings, to be published Tuesday in the online version of the journal Health Affairs come amid the spreading popularity of calorie-counting proposals as a way to improve public health across the country.

“I think it does show us that labels are not enough,” Brian Elbel, an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study, said in an interview.

And there’s the rub: “I think it does show us that labels are not enough.” What, then, is enough for the calorie counters and micromanaging government bureaucrats and their enablers in academia? Should every customer who walks into a McDonald’s have their own calorie-counting bureaucrat assigned to them to ensure they make the right decision on what to eat?

If you’d like to see just how expansive the regulatory world of the federal government is, check out the Federal Register here.

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