Are You Sure You Want Fries With That?

Mandatory calorie counts cross the line between informing and nagging.

In a 2007 survey of California voters, 84 percent said they thought the government should force restaurant chains to display calorie numbers on their menus and menu boards. That may happen soon: The state Assembly is considering a bill, already approved by the state Senate, that would make California the first state to impose such a menu mandate.

Yet the desires that people express in polls are often at odds with the preferences they reveal in the marketplace. The restaurant business is highly competitive. If customers really were clamoring for conspicuous calorie counts, restaurants would provide them voluntarily. A legal requirement is necessary not because consumers want impossible-to-ignore nutritional information but because, by and large, they don't.

Since they overestimate the demand for nutritional information, advocates of menu mandates also overestimate the impact of making it more visible. "Menu board labeling has the potential to dramatically alter the trajectory of the obesity epidemic in California," the California Center for Public Health Advocacy claims, projecting a weight loss of nearly three pounds a year per fast food consumer. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which began enforcing a calorie count requirement last month, predicts it will stop 150,000 people from becoming obese and prevent 30,000 cases of diabetes during the next five years.

Both estimates are based on a study conducted by New York's health department before the city's menu rule took effect. The researchers asked about 7,300 customers at fast food restaurants in the city whether they had seen and made use of nutritional information, which is typically displayed on posters, brochures, tray liners, or counter mats (as well as on the chains' websites). They also examined the customers' receipts so they could calculate the calorie content of the food they purchased.

The only chain where a substantial share of customers said they noticed nutritional information was Subway, where 32 percent reported seeing it, compared to 4 percent at the other chains. Since Subway promotes a subset of its menu as lower in calories and fat than its competitors' offerings, using a pitchman who lost hundreds of pounds while eating at the chain every day, this disparity is not surprising.

But even at Subway, calorie information seemed to make a difference for just one in eight customers. Of those who reported seeing the calorie information at Subway, 37 percent—12 percent of all Subway customers—said it affected their purchases. Subway customers who said they used calorie information bought about 100 fewer calories than those who said they didn't see it and those who said they saw it but didn't use it.

Notably, "there was no significant difference in mean calories purchased by patrons reporting seeing but not using calorie information and patrons who reported not seeing calorie information." In other words, simply making people aware of calorie content is not enough to affect their food choices.

The information's influence may be limited to people who are predisposed to count calories. If so, the impact of menu mandates will depend on the extent to which those people are not taking advantage of less obtrusive nutritional information already provided by restaurants.

The importance of pre-existing preferences also suggests that it's risky to extrapolate from Subway customers (who, given the chain's marketing, are probably especially weight-conscious) to fast food consumers in general. Another unresolved question is whether people compensate for fewer calories consumed at McDonald's or KFC by eating more at home or elsewhere.

Even if menu regulations don't make any difference on balance, Yale obesity researcher Kelly Brownell recently told the Los Angeles Times, "there's still the issue of the consumer's right to know." What about the consumer's right not to know? The same research that supporters of menu mandates like to cite indicates that most consumers prefer to avoid calorie counts, enjoying their food in blissful ignorance. There's a difference between informing people and nagging them.

© Copyright 2008 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • Butch||

    Ummm, that is a tasty burger!

  • ||

    Easy to solve. When your order at McBurgers hits 300 calories the kid at the register stops taking your order. You will not be allowed to overeat, depending on what the allowable caloric count is. Perhaps each individual can weigh in as they enter to determine their BMI, get a ticket to hand to the registrar of food, before ordering. Solves the problem for all, we'll be a lean, mean, fighting machine, mostly 'cause we'll be pissed off all day.

  • Episiarch||

    Food at expensive restaurants has tons of calories, yet we hear nothing about them. What about Thai restaurants? Do you realize the amount of calories in just a little bit of coconut milk?

    This is 100% about controlling the peasants who are too dumb to be allowed to choose their own food as they see fit.

  • Elemenope||

    It's a long way between posting calorie counts and Sumptuary Laws.

    So long as the regulation is not written idiotically, the burden to inform the prospective customer of information regarding their purchase is not terribly burdensome.

    Hating food ban laws, like eliminating Trans Fats, that I get. But being annoyed because you actually have to tell a customer a critical feature of what they may be buying? Come on.

  • Elemenope||

    This is 100% about controlling the peasants who are too dumb to be allowed to choose their own food as they see fit.

    If they were banning it or *strangling it* to death with regulation, I would agree.

    But they aren't, and I don't.

  • Episiarch||

    So the South LA "moratorium" on new fast food restaurants isn't a ban of sorts? And you don't think this will progress to more restrictive laws?

    And why, again, are expensive restaurants exempt from having to list calories?

  • Elemenope||

    So the South LA "moratorium" on new fast food restaurants isn't a ban of sorts? And you don't think this will progress to more restrictive laws?

    The moratorium is crap but doesn't have anything to do with calorie count laws, and there should be no exemptions.

    Like I said, if the regulation *isn't written idiotically*, it doesn't have to be burdensome or bad. It can be helpful information for a consumer attempting to pick amongst products who wish to use an accurate calorie count as a criteria for suitability of purchase.

    Me, I like my Big Macs and couldn't care less how many calories are in it. But I know people who do.

  • Episiarch||

    Except that calorie information is already available on the website and in brochures in the store. So when you say "But I know people who do", they already have that info available.

    So it is burdensome, as the store now must spend money to change their displays.

  • Travis||

    "Me, I like my Big Macs and couldn't care less how many calories are in it. But I know people who do."

    If someone is really concerned about how many calories they're ingesting. They wouldn't be eating at McDonalds or any other fast food place.

  • ||

    Elemenope,

    Most fast food chains already have nutritional information literature available, either on request, online, or in printed literature in the restaurant. Even if it's not available directly from the vendor, the information is out there somewhere. Why presume in favor of state intervention where it doesn't seem warranted?

    So long as the regulation is not written idiotically, the burden to inform the prospective customer of information regarding their purchase is not terribly burdensome.

    How do you (or the CA legislature) have the information to know how burdensome a regulation is or is not? Having to roll out new signage to hundreds of stores is costly and time-consuming. Those assets come out a companies operating budget, same as payroll, benefits, expansion and product development. Again it seems better to presume to let the people closer to those decisions make them.

  • Sam||

    As someone who needs to count every carbohydrate I eat and also moderate my intake of cholesterol raising foods because of my type 1 diabetes, I feel like I have a right to know what I'm eating. It's always a struggle to learn this information. This article is silly.

  • ||

    Seems to me there is a silver lining in all this. Whenever I object to such nanny state laws (motorcycle helmets, trans fats, etc.) someone inevitably pops up with "I don't want to pay their medical bills when they bust their head open, get a heart attack, etc."
    And neither to do I. So there seems to be a latent undercurrent here - stop subsidizing the foolish and reckless - that libertarians should be able to use. So how do we get people to stop proposing restrictions on behavior and instead start proposing restrictions on a raid on one's wallet?

  • Elemenope||

    Travis, not so. People go to restaurants for all sorts of reasons, and getting food is but one.

    Sometimes, for example, you are out with your friends, and they all want to go to McDonalds, and you get dragged along. Imagine you are counting your calories, but do not wish to appear despondent or rude, and so you order something. Since you are counting calories, you want to know the calorie count of each menu selection.

    See?

  • Episiarch||

    Imagine you are counting your calories, but do not wish to appear despondent or rude, and so you order something. Since you are counting calories, you want to know the calorie count of each menu selection.

    So ask for the nutritional brochures that are carried in every major fast food chain...OR...and this is a tough one: use your own knowledge of food to order the salad or just a hamburger. It's really, really not that hard.

  • Elemenope||

    Why presume in favor of state intervention where it doesn't seem warranted?

    Because much of that information is either useless or inaccurate, which is *worse* than no information at all. You sometimes get ridiculous calorie "ranges" for items, or wild underestimates of the actual number of calories.

    It's kinda the same reason we regulate gas stations, so what's displayed on the pump as far as amount pumped is somewhat reflective of the reality of how much gas went into your gas tank. Like the amount of gas sold, it is awfully hard to tell without some system of independent validation, just how many calories you *actually* ate, just as it would be hard without a calibrated pump to know how many gallons you *actually* pumped.

  • Nigel Watt||

    Elemenope, it's not that this, alone, is bad. But in principle, it is wrong.

  • ||

    Coincidentally, a book I was reading last night (not nutrition related) included some trivia about the Big Mac. Apparently, the Big Mac contains enough calories to run a vacuum cleaner for 98 minutes. Don't know if that's true, but it's a compelling image, isn't it? Maybe we have an alternative energy source right in front of our mouths?

  • ||

    Because much of that information is either useless or inaccurate, which is *worse* than no information at all.

    So rather than researching the matter and holding the offending company accountable publicly, we err on the side of force?

    Violence is the path of least resistance. So noted.

    creech,
    Won't happen. For every person like you who wants to stop subsidizing other people's risky behavior, there are two Sam's whose right to crap creates a special obligation for me to wipe his ass.

  • Elemenope||

    Jeez, I'm usually not this guy, defending a regulation, but this one seems like a no-brainer. If the calorie count is too abstract for ya (and sometimes the salad is *worse* than the cheeseburger; depends on the dressing!), then take the example above of Sam the Diabetic. He needs to know what simple carbohydrates are in each item so that he does not go into insulin shock and die. Is it so terrible for his sake as well as the calorie-counter to get an independent validator for the information printed in the brochures?

    I don't even think that independent check need be governmental regulators; it need not be a new bureaucracy, you could farm it out to private enterprise.

  • Elemenope||

    Apparently, the Big Mac contains enough calories to run a vacuum cleaner for 98 minutes. Don't know if that's true, but it's a compelling image, isn't it? Maybe we have an alternative energy source right in front of our mouths?

    For some reason, reminds me of Fight Club.

  • Elemenope||

    So rather than researching the matter and holding the offending company accountable publicly, we err on the side of force?

    Are you an Anarchist, or a Libertarian? Sometimes the rhetoric makes thing all blurry around here. Minimal regulation in pursuit of a legitimate and limited public health goal is not terrible. Guaranteeing people are not being *defrauded* is not terrible.

    Crossing the bright line would be placing regulation meant to destroy or hamper the continued business of a restaurant, or attempting to regulate what you may or may not eat. This is neither of those things.

    Violence is the path of least resistance. So noted.

    Go kiss your high horse's ass.

  • Episiarch||

    take the example above of Sam the Diabetic. He needs to know what simple carbohydrates are in each item so that he does not go into insulin shock and die

    And that information is already provided by the in-store brochures that were in place before any regulations--in response to the demands of people like Sam. No state interference needed.

    If you go to your friend's house and their mom makes dinner, do you ask for calorie counts? Or do you rely on your own judgment?

  • Wendy||

    Man up and eat a Baconator, calories be dammed.

  • ||

    Now I just have to find a way to get my vacuum cleaner to eat Big Macs. Maybe I can have a law passed which will force it to comply?

  • FedFastFood Commission||

    "You can always look up the calories of course,or not eat the food you don't want. But why should you have to?"

  • Elemenope||

    Epi --

    Again, Sam the Diabetic needs some decent reason to believe the information in the brochure is fairly accurate, because the consequences to him for their being wrong are steep.

    And McDonalds et al have every reason in the world in this day and age to fudge the calorie count downwards. When the watcher and the subject are the same person, problems ensue.

  • Elemenope||

    Do I also have to be the guy to point out that the vast majority of people do not own nor could afford nor know how to use a calorimeter?

  • Episiarch||

    And McDonalds et al have every reason in the world in this day and age to fudge the calorie count downwards

    So they can get sued by drooling trial lawyers for a bazillion dollars like Applebees? Are you serious? McDonald's isn't that stupid. It's one thing to get sued by people going "my lean meal wasn't as lean as you said" and it's another to get sued by people saying "you put me in a diabetic coma because your brochure was wrong!"

  • Elemenope||

    Epi --

    True enough. But I am not so enamored with the civil tort system that I believe it would be the best (or even a reasonable) recourse in cases of malfeasance.

    Personally, I believe regulation aimed at obtaining and validating *information* about products are not, if well written, intrusive, and obviate the need for most of those suits. Once the information is available *and* trustworthy, McDonalds can say "caveat emptor and go fuck yourselves", and they'd be right to do so.

    I'm well aware that in many regulator's minds, regulations about information blend seamlessly into regulations about prescription and proscription of products themselves. I say, balancing acts are necessary, and vigilance is the eternal price of being stuck in a society with mission-creeping control freaks.

  • ||

    Why do we need any regs.? if a person eats plenty of fruits and vegetables,limits red meat,eats fish and chicken and limits fried food sweets and carbs he'll be fine.There's so many food choices it's easy to do.Unless we accept most are too stupid to make proper choices.

  • Elemenope||

    That first sentence should say "...in many cases of malfeasance."

    I also don't have to be the guy to tell you that not everyone has enough money to get access to competent counsel.

    More pointedly, though, sometimes the injury is small enough that evidentiary standards become problematic in the forum of a court structure. That doesn't mean people should be thousand-cut to death, just because the liminal barriers of evidence are too low; that's what regulation *is for*.

    The marginal cost for society (including the company) is higher if every one of these cases had to be adjudicated in court that could instead be covered by a minimal regulatory system.

    If the customer has the appropriate information, as I said before, it's "caveat emptor" and the seller is off the hook.

  • Elemenope||

    Michael Pack --

    Eating healthily is more expensive. Not everyone is made of money.

  • ||

    I don't know that eating healthily is more expensive. I know for a fact that it is more work.
    IMHO the problem with a bigmac© is that it is just too small. I'll take a prime rib thickburger please.

  • Episiarch||

    vigilance is the eternal price of being stuck in a society with mission-creeping control freaks

    Agreed. And my vigilance alarm goes off on this subject, even if yours does not.

  • ||

    How is it my problem as a restaurant owner to care for your diabetes? If you have a disease it is your responsibility to learn how to manage it.

  • ||

    Speaking as a diabetic, I address Sam the diabetic, and any gallant defenders of His Diabeticness... (hint, LMNOP)

    If you, Sam, already know you are diabetic, and you Sam, can and do read at, or above a 7th grade level, you already have potential access to enough information about carbohydrates to take care of yourself. If you don't, find yourself a new doctor, and/or take remedial reading classes.

    The real issue for you seems to be lazy victimhood, illustrated by the statements: I feel like I have a right to know what I'm eating. It's always a struggle to learn this information. This article is silly.

    - dunno about a right to know, but I'd say you owe it to yourself to learn as much as possible about what you eat. So far nobody's stopped me from "knowing" about my condition - other than feeling sorry for yourself, what's stopping you?
    - "it's a struggle to learn this information" - boo hoo! For some it is a struggle learn anything Choose better ancestors next time if you want more intelligence (...and no diabetes)!
    - your comment is silly... and victimy, and pathetic.

  • ||

    Enolope,bull,I do most of the cooking at home and it's not that hard.Pasta, chicken and canned or frozen vegetable are fairly cheap.WalMat sells tipila and catfish at reasonable prices.I buy mostly fresh veggies because I can.Canned sliced tomatoes with herbs make a great pasta topping.

  • Elemenope||

    Agreed. And my vigilance alarm goes off on this subject, even if yours does not.

    Fair enough.

    KD --

    My thing is that eating is required for survival, and so a *slightly* higher standard is not like, out of the realm of possibility. Regulating the airwaves is stupid because you can always turn off your radio or TV. You can't "not eat".

    Enolope,bull

    Join the ranks of fine alumni who can apparently neither read nor type. Perhaps you are dyslexic and I would normally have some sympathy for that, but considering how much sympathy is going around here for diabetics I'd rather stuff the sympathy and make fun of you.

    Beyond that, it's great you have a Super Wal-mart where you live (not everyone does...like me for example), but produce prices fluctuate wildly with season and availability. Meat, which is important for most people to have a healthy diet, is extremely expensive outside the confines of the fast-food industry.

    Bottom line, feeding a family of four on fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and pasta is *way* more expensive than McDonalds.

  • ||

    As the only properly identified diabetic on the board... I just use the calorie counts on the wall. Or [gasp] guess. You have to guess most of the time, unless you all use the nutritional information off of pre-packaged foods. Nothing healthier than stuff that comes in a cardboard box.

    The diabetic coma stuff is red herring. You'd have to eat 25 Big Macs and take no insulin at all to go into a coma, probably a day later. The bigger concern to diabetics is taking too much insulin. Unless you know the exact calorie count, you always shoot up on the low side.

    Yes, having the calorie counts on the wall or on the wrapper would make things easier, but it's not a matter of life and death. If my insulin-deficient brothers care so much, then DON'T EAT THERE! Fast food is terrible for healthy people, we definitely should avoid it.

  • ||

    Elemenope,You left out canned and frozen fruits and vegetables and in this area,which is small,there are Save a Lots and other discount food stores.To say you can feed 4 cheaper on fast food is just a lie.I can make a pasta dis for around 6 bucks.Almost any meal can be made cheaper at home.Even on vacation we cook at the house we rent.We enjoy more sea food than we ever could eating out for much less money.

  • Elemenope||

    SugarFree, if you don't mind me asking, type I or type II?

  • Decoder Ring||

    Restaurants or any one selling a product shouldn't be required to disclose it's ingredients.Consumers can chose to buy from those who do if they wish.Market forces would lead to widespread labeling of content.If a vendor choses to list ingredients they should be reasonably accurate or else they are engaged in fraud, which is legally actionable.

  • ||

    "In a 2007 survey of California voters, 84 percent said they thought the government should force restaurant chains to display calorie numbers on their menus and menu boards."

    I wonder what percentage of Californian's believe that individuals should be forced to carry around a card that identifies every STD they have, and that they must present this to their partner before they engage in the dirty deed.

    I'm sure the CDC can come up with a study that proves such action would save millions of lives each year.

  • Elemenope||

    Canned and frozen fruits are almost universally inferior nutritionally to the real deal.

    Also, you presuppose access to functional cooking equipment, which is not a given for some. None of those "cheap home-cooked meals" will do a damn bit of good if you lack what is necessary to cook.

  • ||

    Late-stage Type 1 with Type 2 complications. I'm well-controlled and have been insulin-dependent for 14 years. Both my parents were diabetic, so it was in the cards, but I was fine until I was shot in the hip and surgery and drug complications destroyed my pancreas. I'm not really fat enough to have Type 2 complications. My doctor's current theory is that my body actually attacks some of the insulin in a quasi-allergic reaction. I have a lot of weird drug reactions and allergies, so it's not as crazy as it sounds.

  • Elemenope||

    Jay --

    Those aren't even close to comparable.

    Just start with the relative burdens such regulations would entail. Move on to the likely difficulty of enforcement without repressive intrusion. Then, the odious nature government interference with consensual sexuality. Besides which, having an STD is not usually an alterable circumstance, while a restaurant can alter its menu to suit the whims of its customers.

    Nice strawman, though.

  • ||

    Jay,

    The STD card has already been taken care of by the private sector.

    All Hail The Invisible Hand! for it is wise and terrible!

  • CatFree||

    "My doctor's current theory is that my body actually attacks some of the insulin in a quasi-allergic reaction."

    That theory (on the causes of Type 1 diabetes) has been around for quite a while now. I come from a long line of over active immune systems. I have terrible allergies to cats and horses. My mom has had type 1 since she was 13. My grandmother had rhumetoid arthritis that justabout tied her fingers in knots.

    I can only imagine what allergic / immune system disorders my children will have. Maybe they should shoot for something exotic like Lupus?

  • ||

    You'd think NutraSweet would have gotten lead poisoning from being shot, but NO, he gets diabetes instead.

  • Elemenope||

    Thanks, Sugarfree. The reason I asked was because of all the diabetics I've known (of which there have been a handful), the Type I'ers tended to be more careful and circumspect about their diet and were actually scared of diabetic shock as a constant worry.

    Then again, I imagine like everything else, Diabetes comes in a continuum of severity.

  • ||

    Attn: SugarFree. The undersigned (oversigned actually) brings your attention to the fact that I too have identified myself as diabetic. Don't share your complications but do share some of your conclusions.

    "Yes, having the calorie counts on the wall or on the wrapper would make things easier, but it's not a matter of life and death. If my insulin-deficient brothers care so much, then DON'T EAT THERE!"

    LMNOP: ...eating is required for survival. ...You can't "not eat". Arguable on a semantic level - ever hear of Bobby Sands, Irish hunger striker? He, and a number of others definitely could "not eat".

    Now, rather than continue with semantic diversions;
    My thing - as a diabetic I can, and would be smart to, "not eat" certain things... in fact, as a diabetic, not eating certain things is exactly what is required for survival.

    My other thing - it is my job to enhance my own survival, if it is "a struggle" for me to do what is necessary, and I am not willing/able to deal with it then I get to pay the price. Preventing me from having "a struggle" is not your, or anyone else's job.

    And what the bleep does regulating the airwaves have to do with regulating food? Are you saying regulating food is not stupid because it is sympathetic to diabetics... or is your diagnosis that I too am dyslexic?

    OMG! A dyslexic diabetic - how much sympathy can we generate for this one! Quick, someone think of a law we can pass to make sure DD (Dyslexic Diabetics) don't have to face anything resembling "a struggle"!!

  • ||

    The moratorium is crap but doesn't have anything to do with calorie count laws,

    Well, no. Both are part of the war on obesity.

    Canned and frozen fruits are almost universally inferior nutritionally to the real deal.

    Ban them!

    Also, you presuppose access to functional cooking equipment, which is not a given for some.

    Anyone who can afford to eat out every single meal can afford a few pots and pans. Homeless people have pots and pans, for crying out loud.

  • Elemenope||

    Hey, Epi. Lead is sweet.

  • ||

    I don't know that eating healthily is more expensive.

    Depends on how you define "eating healthy" and what you're comparing the cost of that to. Eating healthy is more expensive than eating fast food every day, and buying from a place like, say, Whole Foods, is more expensive than trying to eat healthy by shopping at Safeway.

    From my own experience of being a person who generally eats fresh foods, including high quality fruits, veggies, and meats, I will say that maintaing one's diet in such a way is vastly more expensive than eating fast food and processed junk from the store.

  • jmd||

    this regulation is burdensome on the restaurant owners and franchisees. it would have been nice to see an article written from their point of view.

    but regardless of the impact on the vendor, i fail to see how this hurts the customer. doesn't a true free market depend on fully-informed consumers and transparency in all transactions. giving the consumer more information is bad for him...really?

    i guess this is what happens in the rare instances when H&R discusses something other than marijuana.

  • ||

    the Type I'ers tended to be more careful and circumspect about their diet and were actually scared of diabetic shock as a constant worry.

    The problem there is that to make sure they take enough insulin, Type 1 ID often have that fear drilled into them as children. Yes, it's very important to take enough insulin, but taking too little is about being slightly sicker in 30 years and taking too much is about dying right now.

    Severely low blood sugar is related to the flight/fight reflex. Basically, your body floods with adrenalin in a last ditch effort to give you enough energy to find food. Even if the low blood sugar doesn't kill you by starving your heart or shutting down your brain, all that adrenalin can give you a heart attack or cause a car wreck.

    Running a little low on insulin is a devil's bargain, but I've called the ambulance for my mother too many times in the middle of the night. (Her blood sugar was once 6.) You ever see anyone in the midst of a full-blown blood sugar crash, you stop drawing so far back on the needle.

  • ||

    Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are a part of a healthy diet.Some foods,such as corn,beans and tomatoes are improved by the canning process.I prefer some canned veggies when making soup[including mushrooms].They seem to keep their texture better.

  • ||

    KD,

    The undersigned (oversigned actually) brings your attention to the fact that I too have identified myself as diabetic.

    Just a small joke on the obvious reference to my condition in my handle.

  • SIV||

    giving the consumer more information is bad for him...really?

    The State mandating a seller disclose all information is bad.If the seller doesn't, and you want to know, don't buy it.

  • J||

    Honestly, while I wouldn't vote to support this law, I would be willing to trade my support for it for other things (assuming it was done in a way to minimize costs to restaurants). While I would love to live in a libertopia, easier access to product information is probably the in the bottom few legal issues I would dislike to see implemented. (The rest of the war on obesity, on the other hand....)

    What about the consumer's right not to know? is a joke, I hope. While it's low priority, I still agreed with much of the article until this point.

    Should we censor the restaurants to protect this sacred right? What about other speech? First of all, just because there are those of us that often do not care about our calorie intake or the healthiness of our actions does not mean that we would be offended by seeing calories. I, personally, am fine knowing I am making a poor decision. And, if there are others that are offended by it (which, I imagine would mostly be libertarians who are only offended because they view it - maybe correctly - as trying to help change their behavior), should the company not do it if they choose to? What if just knowing there are packets or a website with nutritional information bothers them.

    I am not saying there is no difference between the government forcing them to include calories and them choosing to separately, just that if you are talking about a right not to know, they should be fairly isimilar.

  • J||

    oops, typos >.

  • ||

    Epi,

    I still have a steel ball-screw in my hip, if that satisfies you at all. It was supposed to come out, but they broke a $3000 medical socket wrench trying to get it out, and so left it where it was. (Luckily, I was not charged for the wrench.)

  • Elemenope||

    Ban them!

    Wha...? You're clearly arguing with somebody, but it's not me. I think banning pretty much anything is not just stupid but also an infringement of basic liberties.

    Anyone who can afford to eat out every single meal can afford a few pots and pans. Homeless people have pots and pans, for crying out loud.

    Pots aren't so much the issue as a working stove/microwave. But sure, you keep on with your homeless pots & pans.

  • Elemenope||

    The State mandating a seller disclose all information is bad.

    They aren't making them give up trade secrets. This isn't the back door to the recipe for the secret sauce. This is basic nutritional information.

  • ||

    I still have a steel ball-screw in my hip, if that satisfies you at all

    Well, I have a solid titanium rod all the way through my right femur, and what looks like part of a bike chain with 1 inch screws through my heel. We're all part of the cyborg/heavy metal club.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The invisible hand must be blind to all important information to work its magic as knowledge confuses it?

    Or something.

    The burden here is pretty lite imho.

    Beware the slippery slope though.
    First they require sellers to provide informaiton, then they ban food sales as they are the main source of calories.

  • ||

    Would the printed, accurate calorie counts make it easier or harder for a lazy phat bastard like me to sue the local heart attack in a paper sack chain?

  • ||

    Wha...? You're clearly arguing with somebody, but it's not me.

    I know. Just trying to get into the food-nanny spirit.

    Pots aren't so much the issue as a working stove/microwave.

    I would be absolutely fascinated to see real data on the quantity of low-income housing that doesn't have working stoves/microwaves/refrigerators. I'm guessing its a microscopic number, with some significant percentage of that microscopic number representing appliances that were busted by the tenants.

  • LarryA||

    In a 2007 survey of California voters, 84 percent said they thought the government should force restaurant chains to display calorie numbers on their menus and menu boards.

    Ask the same voters if they're willing to pay an extra fifty cents/meal for said information.

    So long as the regulation is not written idiotically, the burden to inform the prospective customer of information regarding their purchase is not terribly burdensome.

    It's a regulation. "Idiotically" will be a given. All of the chains already provide the information, but the vast majority of customers ignore it. That's what the regulators want to fix. Next thing you know they'll demand that customers pass a pop quiz before being served.

    I also don't have to be the guy to tell you that not everyone has enough money to get access to competent counsel.

    Not a factor in this situation. There are plenty of anti-fast-food people willing to volunteer to purchase a meal, have its calories counted, and file a suit. And plenty of others to fund the action. And plenty of lawyers who will take the case on spec for a slice of the award.

    But regardless of the impact on the vendor, I fail to see how this hurts the customer.

    1. Increased cost to vendor will be passed on to the customer.
    2. Vendors who have to have a calorie count for each item can't afford to serve as many items, so the customer has fewer choices.
    3. A calorie count on an item is only accurate if each serving is identical. No more "Have it your way."

  • ||

    The burden here is pretty lite imho.

    And the demand for it from real people must be pretty lite, too, or it would already be done, seeing as its so easy.

    So we have here a mandate that the people it is supposed to benefit, won't benefit from, because they don't fucking care about the calories in their fast food. Instead, we get (a) another pointless-but-not-free mandate (b) another expansion of government into an area that is none of their fucking business and therefore (c) the way paved for more and more intrusions.

  • Neu Mejican||

    And the demand for it from real people must be pretty lite, too, or it would already be done, seeing as its so easy.

    Ah yes, I forgot.
    The invisible hand vs. the slippery slope.

    Thanks for that insightful analysis.

  • ||

    "Menu board labeling has the potential to dramatically alter the trajectory of the obesity epidemic in California," the California Center for Public Health Advocacy claims, projecting a weight loss of nearly three pounds a year per fast food consumer.

    Shit! That just pegged my bullshot meter. I'll have to recalibrate and throw some shunt resisters into the circuit before I can accurately gage how fucking out of their ass stupid that "projection" is.

  • ||

    Maybe fast food chains should make customers sign an assumption of risk waiver, where the customer acknowledges that eating a Big Mac is inherently dangerous and agrees to hold the restaurant and corporation harmless for any weight gained or health diminished.

    Of course, only fast food need do this, because the 3,000 calorie meal I ate at Emeril's last year doesn't count. I'm one of the elite, see, and don't waste my high-calorie opportunities on such hoi polloi offerings as McDonald's.

  • ||

    In the alternative, might I suggest that everyone who wants bibertarian treatment should be required to wear a bib at all times or give up their special bibertarian rights. Such persons shall be given the enhanced parenting that they need and want.

    I'm not as opposed to the idea of accurate disclosures as maybe I should be, as a libertarian, but like any of these various unfunded mandates, such things can be taken too far.

  • ||

    ... I feel like I have a right to know what I'm eating.

    You're just trying to completely ruin my bullshit meter, aren't you?

    That would be interpreted from which part of either the U.S. or California constitutions? I want ≠ I have a right. I'm so terribly sorry that you are incapable of finding out the info you need to manage your health problem. I don't think it's Julio's Taco Emporium's problem. I think it's yours.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Of course, only fast food need do this, because the 3,000 calorie meal I ate at Emeril's last year doesn't count.

    What, you only got the salad and breadsticks?

    So this is about hurting the poor?
    Or is the 15 location rule about reducing the burden on small businesses?

    Maybe they should use receipts rather than number of locations to gauge which business can afford the additional costs...but I don't think this is as much of a class issue as you imply.

  • bubba||

    People are in favor of calorie disclosures because they like to think they would make better choices if they had better information.

    But, when they are actually standing in line, they discover that they really *want* the large fries and coke for only a nickel more.

    Maybe these same people really would choose the smaller sizes if they had the calorie counts staring them in the face.

    This kind of psychology is real and could have a measurable impact on public health.

    It should be easy enough to test. Cali can pass its law, and then we can compare calorie consumption in Cali McD's vs. Texas.

  • J||

    Just a single point:

    It may work well for subway that has healthier options.

    However, while people may prefer to have ALL their food options tell them the calories, they may also be driven away from the first food place that does it, due to an illusion of it being less healthy than others since the lack of healthiness is prominently displayed. This is because of the availability heuristic people often use.

    I dont think this means that we should be forcing chains to do this, but the invisible hand taking care of everything is dumb (it just is better than using force to get what you can from it).

  • Neu Mejican||

    Onto the more general issue.

    What other burdensome regulations are placed on restaurants that need to be removed?

    Does the issue of a single regulation added onto the suite of existing regulations actually reduce liberty in any meaningful way.

    Particularly when this one is just about providing information, an important ingredient for a working market.

  • ||

    Sometimes, for example, you are out with your friends, and they all want to go to McDonalds, and you get dragged along. Imagine you are counting your calories, but do not wish to appear despondent or rude, and so you order something. Since you are counting calories, you want to know the calorie count of each menu selection.

    Imagine you're a spineless wuss who is afraid to say, I'll just have a cup of coffee. I'm on a diet.

  • ||

    Here's what should be mandated if they want folks to get thinner. Caution: not safe before lunch.

    http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/05/06/29/how_many_insect_parts_and_rodent_hairs_are_allowed_in_your_food.htm

  • Elemenope||

    J pretty much nailed my next point, so I won't bother. In areas of information asymmetry, as often as not the market punishes voluntary honesty.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    My impression--which could be mistaken--is that most of these efforts are directed at fast food companies. Not that all fast food companies are innocent--far from it:

    Stuart Mackenzie: Well, it's a well known fact, Sonny Jim, that there's a secret society of the five wealthiest people in the world, known as The Pentavirate, who run everything in the world, including the newspapers, and meet tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as The Meadows.

    Tony Giardino: So who's in this Pentavirate?

    Stuart Mackenzie: The Queen, The Vatican, The Gettys, The Rothschilds, *and* Colonel Sanders before he went tits up. Oh, I hated the Colonel with is wee *beady* eyes, and that smug look on his face. "Oh, you're gonna buy my chicken! Ohhhhh!"

    Charlie Mackenzie: Dad, how can you hate "The Colonel"?

    Stuart Mackenzie: Because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes ya crave it fortnightly, smartass!

  • Elemenope||

    Imagine you're a spineless wuss who is afraid to say, I'll just have a cup of coffee. I'm on a diet.

    Imagine you're on a road trip and the next meal is six hours away. We could dick around all day on whether or not such situations exist commonly, but the fact remains it isn't terribly hard to imagine a common scenario where you really have to eat *something* and would like to know about your choices.

    Nice hay maker, though.

  • ||

    Pro Libertate,

    I imagine he's going to cry himself to sleep tonight, on his 'uge pilla.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Pro Liberate:

    Colonel Sanders: "I don't have a character. Or any feelings. Shape I may take, converse I may, but neither god or Buddha am I, rather an insensate being whose heart thus differs from that of man."

    So, would this regulation lead to restaurants advertising their food as "the most calories for you buck"?

    If not, then I think they are unlikely to volunteer the information, as discussed above.

    Again, what other regulations on restaurants do people feel are unwarranted, or is it just mandating information that freaks people out?

  • ||

    Not to be a prick, (but I gotta be me,) if I'm that concerned with my diet, on a road trip, I'm takin my own food. I am well aware that eating fast food can turn into a real crap shoot.
    While trruck drivin OTR, I always had about 100 pounds of healthier food and drinks in the truck. Much cheaper than the truck stops as well.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Personally,

    I would think this would be great information at fancier restaurants.

    Should I split that 25 dollar pasta plate with my mate, or will it end up being three noodles and a cherry tomato?

  • ||

    LMNOP, I've only driven coast to caost ~ a dozen times. Never, not once, was I forced to eat at a restaurant. They were often the most convenient option, but with a cooler in the back seat, loaded with wheat braed, lettuce, fresh tomatoes, salad dressing (lo-fat is ann option) and turkey slices a meal can pe prepared and consumed in the middle of fucking nowhere, Oklahoma. I do not buy that someones desire to eat properly should impose a burden, however small, on others.

    With an exception or two,* every poster on this board can walk into a White Castle and identify the health effects of the various menu items.

    * YouKnowWhoYouAre.

  • hotsauce||

    ...doesn't a true free market depend on fully-informed consumers and transparency in all transactions.



    No. You're confusing free market with what many economists call an efficient market. The two are not, and never have been, the same.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I do not buy that someones desire to eat properly should impose a burden, however small, on others.

    Should your desire to avoid food born pathogens impose a burden, however small, on others?

    Which regulations are justifiable burdens to place on a restaurant?

  • Neu Mejican||

    If this is too far down the slippery slope, where should the rubber grips be placed?

    Where should the line be drawn?

  • T||

    I'm still working my brain around fast food is cheaper than eating healthy. Where on earth do you people shop for groceries?

    From my cooking-centric perspective, people don't get fast food because they think it's cheaper or better for them. They do it because it's easier. Cooking, to many, looks suspiciously like work and is time consuming. I can't make a damn thing you'd want to eat (except toast) in the time it takes to drive through somewhere and pick up your bag o' salty, tasty, greasy goodness. Add in your time spent shopping, and a lot of people just don't want to be bothered. Posting calorie counts won't change that attitude.

  • Elemenope||

    hotsauce --

    Any market that forbids force and fraud is not a truly free market in the literal sense.

    I doubt that is what people are going for, but nevertheless, there it is.

  • Elemenope||

    T --

    I love cooking too. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility for a family to not have time to cook, either. If both breadwinners are working two jobs (a common occurrence), then sometimes there is no time to throw a stew together; grabbing a bucket of KFC for the kids while home from one job getting ready for the other is not an unreasonable option.

  • ||

    Imagine you're a spineless wuss who is afraid to say, I'll just have a cup of coffee. I'm on a diet.

    hahahahahaha

    For years, I was that guy. "Hey man, we're going to McDonald's. Come on, don't be a faggot."

    Then I'd get a cup of coffee or a yogurt and hang out with everyone while they ate. Nobody ever cared what I was eating beyond some good-natured ribbing about being a health nut (or, as young people in their early 20s usually say, "What are you, some kind of faggot?")

    Also, in the interest of actually contributing to the thread, I Googled "McDonald's nutrition info" and was provided with links directly to a website, maintained by McDonald's, that will give you the calorie count, fat content, sodium content, and ingredients of all of their food. Since today's average McDonald's customer can probably access the Internet via iPhone while standing in line waiting to order, I fail to see the point of ordering restaurants to display nutrition information in a more conspicuous place. The Internet is pretty damn conspicuous.

  • ||

    Michael Phelps' caloric intake during the Olympics was equivalent to him eating 22 big macs a day. Yet he isn't really very obese. How can this be if calories are so damned evil?

    Posting calorie content on every available square inch of space at Macdonalds won't change the fact that I am very very lazy.

  • SIV||

    Which regulations are justifiable burdens to place on a restaurant?

    I'll bite:

    All of them.

  • ||

    ...but the fact remains it isn't terribly hard to imagine a common scenario where you really have to eat *something* and would like to know about your choices.

    Double quater-pounder w/cheese? That's about 200 calories, right?

    hurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  • ||

    One possible alternative to mandating disclosures is to institute a certification organization (à la UL) for food, which could review and certify food products and service. Ideally from the lib perspective, such an organization could take on FDA-like functions; however, for this purpose, it could simply set out criteria for compliance, including certain disclosures. A restaurant that refuses to participate wouldn't be certified.

    Such a system couldn't be implemented overnight, but I think the success of the UL model shows that something like that could work.

  • SIV||

    Woops

    None of them

  • ||

    I do not buy that someones desire to eat properly should impose a burden, however small, on others.

    Should your desire to avoid food born pathogens impose a burden, however small, on others?


    I don't have a big problem with health regs, though I do have serious doubts that they accomplish what they claim.

    Comparing pathogens to calories is a s-t-r-e-t-c-h worthy of Mr. Fantastic. Akin to calling gun violence a CDC issue.

  • SIV||

    Who needs the UL ?

    My illegal street food safety rules are long lines, repeat vendor,visual appearance of food handling, what the people before me are ordering.

    The health conscious could avoid restaurants with obese customers and parking lots littered with diabetes testing and insulin litter.

  • ||

    J sub,
    if I may be so bold as to add; food born pathogens, when allowed to contaminate a restaurant due to sloppy food prep or nasty employees, generally doom a place to fail. The problem solves itself without written regulations.

  • SIV||

    J sub D,


    This is neu. If there is a social or "public health" problem nail he has a State regulatory hammer to pound it flush.

  • ||

    There are no unhealthy foods.Just unhealthy eating habits.I grew up very poor,both of my parents worked long hours and I started a job at 14 years old and went to school.We always cooked at home ,we couldn't afford to eat out.To say many do not have the time is like saying they don't have the time to shower or sleep.It's a lie.I'm tired of the 'poor don't know better' attitude.That's what this is about.'They don't have stoves or pot and pans and work two jobs, we must protect them'.The amount of arrogance makes me ill.

  • T||

    However, it is not out of the realm of possibility for a family to not have time to cook, either. If both breadwinners are working two jobs (a common occurrence), then sometimes there is no time to throw a stew together; grabbing a bucket of KFC for the kids while home from one job getting ready for the other is not an unreasonable option.

    Yup. Been there, done that. If you're in a hurry to feed people, fast food works. I could give a damn how many calories something has when I'm in a hurry.

  • J||

    There are no unhealthy foods.Just unhealthy eating habits Unless you mean choosing to eat them (even in moderation) as a habit, I disagree. For example, food laced with poison - unhealthy.

  • Elemenope||

    One possible alternative to mandating disclosures is to institute a certification organization (à la UL) for food, which could review and certify food products and service. Ideally from the lib perspective, such an organization could take on FDA-like functions; however, for this purpose, it could simply set out criteria for compliance, including certain disclosures. A restaurant that refuses to participate wouldn't be certified.

    Totally agree. I mentioned upthread that it wouldn't have to be a government bureaucracy; this is an area that private enterprise could function just fine to provide independent validation or certification.

  • Elemenope||

    Michael Pack --

    Your experience is not everyone's experience. Being fairly poor myself, and having had what I am sure are completely different experiences than you, it's fair to say that what did and did not work for you wouldn't necessarily be the same for me.

    It's not arrogance to say that some people can't make it work. I just love it when the free-market-is-god libertarians believe that these people are a marginal cost of doing business, to be ignored as unworthy of note.

  • Neu Mejican||

    JsubD,

    Comparing pathogens to calories is a s-t-r-e-t-c-h worthy of Mr. Fantastic. Akin to calling gun violence a CDC issue.

    I recognize that.
    I was interested in people's opinions upon what regulations are not stretching it.

    SIV, as predicted, thinks there is no need for any regulation of any business activity.

    You seem to feel that pathogens might warrant some burden being placed on the business.

    84% of Californians think that the burden of calorie information is not too extreme.

    Etc...

    This is neu. If there is a social or "public health" problem nail he has a State regulatory hammer to pound it flush.

    Actually, I advocate education as the proper response to the majority of public health problems. The only time regulation of behavior plays a role in a public health issue is when one person's actions/choices place the health burden on a different person.

  • ||

    One point that has not been brought up that is at the top of my list is the fact that the menu board has limited real estate. If you add information like calorie counts, the menu becomes more cluttered and harder to read. This results in two things: one the vendor leaves things off the menu, thus reducing choice; second the customer gets overwhelmed and gets "the usual", completely defeating the purpose of the information. I see this already at many McDonalds, where the side salad is routinely left off the menu at many outlets with smaller menu boards. You have to ask for it.

  • Neu Mejican||

    if I may be so bold as to add; food born pathogens, when allowed to contaminate a restaurant due to sloppy food prep or nasty employees, generally doom a place to fail. The problem solves itself without written regulations.

    So how many people killed by an e-coli outbreak does it take to shut down an establishment? How do customers figure out the source?

  • SIV||


    SIV, as predicted, thinks there is no need for any regulation of any business activity.


    I'm against fraud. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger at a Dairy Queen. The menu picture featured a beautiful layering of bun half ,meat, cheese, bacon, red , green, and then another bun half.There was no lettuce or tomato on my sandwich. The cashier explained that the cheeseburger came with lettuce and tomato but not the bacon cheeseburger.She said the picture showed really thick ketchup and pickles. I got my money back (and two big bites).

    That menu picture is fraud and should be actionable in a minarchy.

  • ||

    I just heard about a web site that shows calories, fat, etc. for a whole variety of restaurant menus. Unsurprisingly, the deadly Big Mac has fewer calories than some Starbucks drinks.

  • Neu Mejican||

    SIV,

    So the "none of them" was bullshit?

    You actually agree that where the line is drawn is a legitimate topic for debate upon which reasonable people can disagree.

    The old joke:

    Man:Will you sleep with me for one million dollars?

    Woman: Sure.

    Man: Will you sleep with me for 5 bucks?

    Woman: What, do you take me for, a cheap whore?

    Man: We've already established that, now we are just haggling.

  • robc||

    NM,

    Fraud isnt a "regulation".

    Thus, SIV can think fraud is actionable without considering where to draw a regulation line a legitimate topic for debate.

    It may be a semantic argument but Im decreeing it an axiom so we dont have to argue about it.

  • SIV||

    Neu,

    I gave an example of fraud not a specific business or health regulation.The same would apply for a restaurant offering "red snapper" that is tilapia or "veal" that is pork.

    Why do regulatory agencies always try to expand thier authority while often neglecting their original responsibilities? The CDC offers a good example. The FDA and USDA are entirely unconcerned with such misbranded and adulterated products as fat free sour cream and half and half.Preventing the marking of such products is what they were established for.

  • Justen||

    I propose a simpler solution: make obese people who have significantly higher health risks pay commensurately higher insurance costs and stop driving it up for the rest of us. Then they can decide whether they can afford another bag of big macs or their insurance bill. Things will work themselves out naturally. If the cost of obesity isn't much greater than the cost of being fit they can go right on chubbing up, if not they may come to find a bag of carrots is cheaper than a bag of fries in more ways than one. ;)

  • ||

    if I may be so bold as to add; food born pathogens, when allowed to contaminate a restaurant due to sloppy food prep or nasty employees, generally doom a place to fail. The problem solves itself without written regulations.

    So how many people killed by an e-coli outbreak does it take to shut down an establishment? How do customers figure out the source?



    I mentioned upthread that I had serious doubts about the efficacy of government regulation reducing food borne illnesses.

    We can likely agree that they cost money, have built in inefficincies, and are < 100% effective. Have you seen any data on the incidence of restaurant food borne illnesses in various US jurisdictions compared to the applicable regulations? Do those signs that say employees must wash their hands after eliminatining body wastes actually do anything? Are the government inspections of dishwasher rinse temeratures actually preventing anything other than dishwasher inspector unemployment?

    IOW, do you have any evidence that the codes and accompanying inspectors are responsible for reducing illnesses? Not evidence that cleanliness reduces illness, but that the system actually makes establisments any cleaner. And not some restaurants, but restaurants in the aggregate.

    This discusssion is way off topic (posted calorie counts), but such is the way of H&R threads.

  • ||

    Will mandating posted calorie counts actually do anything than cost businesses money and provide bureaucrats with make work that others have to pay for?

  • ||

    "The same research that supporters of menu mandates like to cite indicates that most consumers prefer to avoid calorie counts, enjoying their food in blissful ignorance. "

    And there's nothing the market likes and rewards more than exploiting wanton consumer ignorance!

    the American Cellulite Empire expands!

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,406921,00.html

  • Neu Mejican||

    JsubD,

    do you have any evidence that the codes and accompanying inspectors are responsible for reducing illnesses? Not evidence that cleanliness reduces illness, but that the system actually makes establisments any cleaner.

    Not for restaurants...but I recently read a nice study on efficacy of these approaches in reducing pathogen spread in hospitals. They had an impressive effect [citation needed, can't seem to locate it for some reason...I'll look again later].

  • Neu Mejican||

    Fraud isnt a "regulation".

    Thus, SIV can think fraud is actionable without considering where to draw a regulation line a legitimate topic for debate.

    It may be a semantic argument but Im decreeing it an axiom so we dont have to argue about it.


    The regulation of behavior by declaring some behaviors off-limits isn't a regulation?

    Okay.

    I guess this is how you can talk about a "free market" despite the fact that a market is a regulated space with enforced rules for exchange.

  • Neu Mejican||

    robc,

    It is okay...I realize that you haven't thought that one through all the way...yet. You'll get there eventually.

    ;^)

  • ||

    I say, serving tilapia and calling it red snapper should garner one a death penalty.

  • ||

    Violence is _always_ the solution with these Statist type.

    "Property" "rights" are enforced with the threat of violence---I may want to walk on this bit of land, whose "owner" has never seen it, but whose hired thug has the "right---oops, I've exhausted my quotation-mark--quota for the day---to use deadly force against me to make me go away, or to seek damages against me later, with that award backed up by the threat of State violence.

    I may be very clever, and know how to trick you into getting from me something other than you foolishly expected, or by hiding from you just how cheap that "gold brick" really is, or how bad nicotine and tar are from you when I know better. You go to court and they call it fraud, and suddenly they have the right to use force against me, instead of putting the responsibility on _you_, for not being clever and/or careful enough---they seek to separate a fool from his folly!

    Similarly, I punch you in the mouth. If you had only spent a few years practicing a martial art, I wouldn't have been able to reach you---yet, somehow, _I_'m the bad guy. (It's not like I'm "initiating force"---you started it by looking at me funny.)

  • SIV||

    If we lynched the fraud perpetrator it wouldn't be any kind of state regulation, just a custom.

  • AM||

    "If customers really were clamoring for conspicuous calorie counts, restaurants would provide them voluntarily."

    This statement is one of the more absurd distillations of thoughtless market fundamentalism I have read, and an accurate representation of the reasoning in the rest of the article.

    Everything is clear now! I must be mistaken whenever I dislike a product, because if customers wanted it to be better, it already would be!

    Now, I am not doubting that similar problems can be and are solved through the workings of a competitive market, but because the market is an ongoing process, and not immediately settled (indeed, it is never really settled, because if it was, it would cease to be a competitive market), there is absolutely no way to logically defend the quoted position.

    For one, revealed preferences in the market place only go so far. A business often does not know precisely why a customer chooses to withhold business. Every single time a person has a problem with the service or product provided, I hear those of the author's ilk say, "Don't buy it, go somewhere else." If the solution is always the same, then how do these problems keep repeating themselves? If the solution is always the same, how does the business know how to change?

    If a business notices some drop-off in sales, it must spend some money to research what caused it. This cost can be higher than the estimated benefit the business would enjoy if the problem were fixed. Thus we arrive in a situation that is sub-optimal because of the costs associated with assessing the situation itself. The government can mandate a fix, and if it turns out to be the correct fix, then we arrive at a more pareto optimal position.

    Of course these government fixes are not always correct, one could even say rarely correct, but if the cost of the fix is minimal, then there is simply not much risk compared to the potential benefits.

    The possible benefits of the mandatory calorie counts include: a better working market, because there is more information readily available to the consumer; and a healthier society, because of changes in behavior based on the new information.

    Also, let us, for now, take it as a given that some healthcare costs of individuals will be shifted to the taxpayer through government programs. This is an easy thing to assume because it is the present reality, and there is absolutely no chance whatsoever that this will be radically reduced in the near-future (despite the hopes of many, myself included). Second, consistently eating more calories than one expends makes one overweight or obese. Third, being overweight or obese increases the likelihood of many illnesses.

    If providing the calorie counts by the item changes eating behavior for the better, then this will decrease the healthcare costs on the taxpayer. I concede that calorie counts may not significantly affect eating behavior, but it is not at all clear that they do not. One can weigh this potential reduction in taxpayer burden against the cost of implementing the mandatory calorie counts.

    This is just one way in which this law could be a net benefit to society, something that the author dismisses out of hand.

    There are so many intelligent, thoughtful libertarians out there. Reason should find one of them to replace Jacob Sullum.

  • Neu Mejican||

    AM,

    There are so many intelligent, thoughtful libertarians out there. Reason should find one of them to replace Jacob Sullum.

    Seconded.

  • Neu Mejican||

    SIV,

    If we lynched the fraud perpetrator it wouldn't be any kind of state regulation, just a custom.

    But the government is just the lynch mob on a leash, no?

  • SIV||

    Jacob Sullum is the best contributor to both REASON
    magazine and H&R.

  • Chad||

    First, some people seem to think this is about fast food chains, but that is not really true. Fast food chains have made this information readily accessable for decades, though they could make it a bit easier to find. This issue is really more about "casual dining" places like Outback Steakhouse or Chilis, where dishes easily break 2000 calories and appetizers, deserts and drinks can put you over 3000 in one sitting.

    This information costs almost nothing to provide, and yes, lots of people want it. The restaurants hide it because it is even worse than most people imagine. Given their intransigence and the near-total impossibility of never eating out, I see no reason to complain about this trivial requirement.

  • ||

    What about the consumer's right not to know?

    So fucking retarded, I need a nap. Is this really the depth to which glibertarianism has sunk in this country? Next thing you know, you'll be nominating Bob Barr as the Libertarian candidate for President.

  • Drew||

    And that information is already provided by the in-store brochures that were in place before any regulations--in response to the demands of people like Sam. No state interference needed.

    IIRC, those brochures exist as a result of an agreement between the fast food industry and several state Attorneys General: rather than be sued by those states for their failure to provide nutrition information, they agreed to provide that minimal information.

    So state interference was apparently necessary.

  • ||

    people who have medical or weight problems shouldn't be eating at fast food restaurants in the first place. it was never a big secret that fast food isn't the healthiest option. how about this. don't eat fast food if you are so concerned about calorie count or have medical issues that are affected by the things you eat. some of these people commenting act like they are forced to eat at these places. what ever happened to some personal accountability and responsibility? oh wait, i forgot, it is easier to blame your problems on someone else.

  • Chad||

    ceanf:

    1: It is not about fast food. That information has been available to years, though more hidden than it needs to be. It is rather about "casual dining" sit-down restaurants, where the information is unavailable - and awful.

    2: Most health-concious people DO avoid such restaurants whenever practical, but traveling and various life-events making total avoidance nearly impossible.

    3: Having information about the chain "sit downs" would be helpful in estimating similar dishes at mom-and-pop's and local restaurants who wouldn't be affect by this law.

  • ||

    I am sick to death of the argument that because someone, no matter how small a minority, "needs" a service, an amenity, or information, then the world has to stop what it is doing and cater to that "need".

    Mr Diabetes sufferer: I've got type II. Somehow I've learned that I don't dive into big plate of pasta at a restaurant, nor do I supersize anything in a fast-food place, especially french fries.

    Instead of pissing and moaning that someone must be forced to give you information, why not just grow up and educate yourself???

    The "nanny state" is the very opposite of what libertarianism is supposed to stand for. We shouldn't be debating its merits here; there ARE no merits.

    It's not a case of "market fundamentalism", "thoughtless" or no; it's a case of not getting the government involved in yet another facet of our lives.

    I guarantee you we'll see headlines like this in the future: "Five Hundred Pound Man Sues Over Inaccurate Applebees Calorie Count".

    Is that what you really freakin want???

  • A.G.||

    It's funny --- back in the good old days when obesity was low, people knew far less about nutrition or calorie counting than we do now. I've been to many countries in the world, most (if not all) of which have lower obesity rates than the USA, and I haven't seen a single one with mandatory calorie labeling. I doubt this is going to be very effective.

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