Calorie Conscientious Objectors

Yesterday, New York's new policy requiring some restaurants to post calorie counts on their menu boards went into effect. A health department inspector swung into action, armed with "his laptop computer and a printer he carries in his backpack," for issuing violation notices.

Despite finding five violations, no fines have been issued yet because of a court ruling delaying implementation, but inspectors will begin handing out citations with a price tag attached in July to restaurants with more than 15 locations nationwide which refuse to trumpet the number of calories in a slice or a container of fries.

In case you want to support these brave conscientious objectors to the culinary paternalism (or guys who forgot to install the new menu boards--whatever), here's the honor roll:

Dunkin’ Donuts at 445 Park Avenue South, at East 30th Street; McDonald’s at 1560 Broadway, at West 46th Street; Popeye’s, at 321 West 125th Street, between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and St. Nicholas Avenue; Sbarro at 22 West 34th Street, next to the Empire State Building; and TGI Friday’s at 677 Lexington Avenue, at East 56th Street.

More on New York's war on tastiness here and here.

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  • Colin Clout||

    Katherine,

    What is the rationale for the 15 store minimum?

  • ||

    Least appropriate use of the word 'tasty', ever. I suppose if you wanted to craft a tour of "Worst Place to Eat" in the city, you couldn't go much wrong by following that list (okay, I'll give Popeye a pass, but why would any New Yorker, with all the culinary options they have, ever patronize a Sbarro's or TGIF?)

    Now do I have to turn in my libertarian card because I refuse to find processed mass-produced prole-chow "tasty"?

  • ||

    What is the rationale for the 15 store minimum?

    Because those are stores that belong to out-of-town chains with no stroke at city hall.

  • ||

    What is the rationale for the 15 store minimum?



    So they can play nanny and stick it to "TEH CORPORATIONS" at the same time.

  • Episiarch||

    but why would any New Yorker, with all the culinary options they have, ever patronize a Sbarro's or TGIF?

    You wouldn't, but somebody does, because those places make money. Tourists, maybe?

  • New World Dan||

    What is the rationale for the 15 store minimum?

    The original implementation required nutritional information to be displayed where available. To avoid this, the major chains simply didn't supply any information for their NY stores.

    Anyway, I see this the same way I see smoking bans: I don't think stores should be forced to do this, but I do want them to do it voluntarily. I do check calorie counts when I go into Wendys so I know about how much I have to balance out the rest of my diet. That said, the nutrional information poster by the door is good enough for me.

    Now, if there had been a smoke free bar on campus back when I was in college, you can damn well bet that I would have been a regular there... (along with the vast sums I used to spend at the bar)

  • Buster||

    "Katherine,

    What is the rationale for the 15 store minimum?"

    I found that odd too. Perhaps it's just an East Coast variation of the West Coast's anti-big chain-store movement. The latter, is fueled by nothing more than envy. Perhaps the former is as well.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Colin,

    Those 15 stores probably compete to succesfully with the local restaurant options.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Jordan said it better and funnier than I did.

  • Neu Mejican||

    15 store rationale...

    Big businesses can afford the additional cost of compliance more readily than small businesses...economies of scale, yadda yadda.

    Pretty standard.

  • ||

    Clearly, we need some kind of "retard congestion pricing plan" to keep out the retarded tourists who would eat at TGIF.

  • Episiarch||

    Retarded tourists spend lots of money in town. Keeping out the retarded tourists (who are currently all European because the Euro is so strong against the dollar--I was in the city last weekend and half the people that passed were speaking Spanish, French, or German) would be shooting oneself in the foot.

    Don't like tourists? Live, and stay, in Queens.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "why would any New Yorker, with all the culinary options they have, ever patronize a Sbarro's or TGIF?"

    Tourists and yuppies go to eat at fancy upscale culturally open minded culinary crap and ethinic indigestion factories. Joe Blow doesn't give a shit about that, and he can't afford that bullshit all the time anyway. He just stops by Dunkin Donuts on the way to work. Food is food.

  • ||

    Big businesses can afford the additional cost of compliance more readily than small businesses...economies of scale, yadda yadda.

    Wait, you really don't think it has anything to do with the fact that "Frank" of "Frank's Deli" has more pull with the local pols than "nameless, faceless McDonald's"?

  • ||

    Wait, you really don't think it has anything to do with the fact that "Frank" of "Frank's Deli" has more pull with the local pols than "nameless, faceless McDonald's"?

    Calm down Ayn, neu mejican was just giving the stated rationale, he/she didn't say they agreed with it.

    Having said that, another rationale is that food at large chains tends to be far more standardized in size and content than food at more individual places. Therefore the numbers are more likely to be meaningful, etc.

  • Christ on a Cracker||

    How accurate is the "Calorie Count" on food labels, anyway. If something has "165 Calories per Serving", is it really165? Common sense says there has to be an error margin, but what is it? If my independent lab indicates 165.2, instead of the advertised 165.0 calories do I have basis for a class-action suit.

    Should have been a lawyer instead of an engineer.

  • ||

    How is this a libertarian concern? This seems like the right direction to me. Rather than setting rules like maximum calories or fat grams or something, just put the information out there and let people make their own decisions.

  • ||

    Tourists and yuppies go to eat at fancy upscale culturally open minded culinary crap and ethinic indigestion factories. Joe Blow doesn't give a shit about that, and he can't afford that bullshit all the time anyway. He just stops by Dunkin Donuts on the way to work. Food is food.



    Do you think Dunkin or TGIF is cheaper or less prone to cause indigestion than your average non-chain restaurant? Wow, just... wow.

  • dhex||

    as a side note, i was getting some tea in a hot and crusty by my job and these two french guys were in there, and holy shit they were both obnoxious, rude and smelled bad.

    i hate it when stereotypes come to life.

    if you like caffine as a performance-enhancing drug (and your performance is "i'm crazy like a fuckin' loon") during the summer their "turbo ice" product will put hair on your balls. it will be green hair, and prehensile, and perhaps suffer an unholy hunger for the blood of the living, but it's still a decent "pick-me-up-high-enough-to-chat-with-heath-ledger."

  • dhex||

    that's dunkin' donuts for the second part, i meant.

    also ethnic indigestion food = awesome food. (sripraphai in woodside, queens is highly recommended in this regard.)

  • Fluffy||

    Well, John, I don't like it because of the 15 store rule.

    But I also wouldn't like it if it were applied to single-location restaurants.

    If I owned a restaurant, and in the morning got an idea for a dish to put into the Specials section of my menu, I wouldn't want it to be illegal for me to sell it if I didn't calculate the calorie information by the time I opened.

    But if I owned 15 restaurants, I wouldn't want to be treated differently than the guy who owns one, either. Customers can only eat in one restaurant at a time, so the number of restaurants I own shouldn't be relevant.

  • ||

    Dunkin' Donuts has decent coffee (better than Starbucks, which is ALSO a chain), but in NYC I prefer the Mud Shop/Truck near Astor Place. $1.75 for a cup of the best brew you've ever had (Dunkin' costs about the same here, Sbucks costs more).

  • ||

    Why doesn't City Hall care about all the people patronizing chi-chi restaurants? Don't they deserve the same info as the shlubs going to MacDonalds?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ayn,

    Wait, you really don't think it has anything to do with the fact that "Frank" of "Frank's Deli" has more pull with the local pols than "nameless, faceless McDonald's"?

    Well...I am not sure I buy an argument that McDonald's has no political clout to throw around. I mean who has more employees in NYC, Frank's Deli or McDonald's? Who can more readily absorb the cost of moving/not locating/closing their locations in NYC if push came to shove?

  • fyodor||

    John,

    One would think that restaurants would also deserve "to make their own decision" of whether or not to offer the information, and that letting consumers make their own decisions means allowing them to "vote" with their pocketbook on whether such information is important to them.

    That said, you're right that at least it's not as bad as mandating specific nutritional requirements.

  • ANGRY RENTER||

    I LIVE ABOVE A SBARRO AND I CAN'T GET THE SMELL OF FUCKING "MEAT DELIGHT" OUT OF MY CLOTHES!

  • ||

    If I owned a restaurant in NYC, just to be a smart ass, I'd post a sign saying:

    "ALL THE FOODS AND BEVERAGES WE SERVE CONTAIN 609 BILLION CALORIES PER OUNCE."

    However, I'd expect that the idea of mass-energy equivalence would be lost on most health inspectors and municipal bureaucrats.

  • ||

    That said, you're right that at least it's not as bad as mandating specific nutritional requirements.

    Yet

  • ||

    How is this a libertarian concern?

    Its a mandate that is beyond the proper scope of government (protecting citizens against force and fraud).

    at least it's not as bad as mandating specific nutritional requirements

    Google "slippery slope".

  • ||

    R C Dean - you know that the "slippery slope" is a well-known logical fallacy, right?

  • TallDave||

    I've conducted a detailed study, and the number of calories in all our food is: One (middle finger extended).


    R C Dean - you know that the "slippery slope" is a well-known logical fallacy, right?

    I can't wait for March, when the Soylent Green shakes come out!

  • ||

    "What is the rationale for the 15 store minimum?"

    One reason could be that tiny mom-and-pop shops have no idea how many calories are in their food. They couldn't care less as long as they're getting business. Hell, I wouldn't even know where to ship my food off to get it tested for nutrition information? The FDA?

  • ||

    "ALL THE FOODS AND BEVERAGES WE SERVE CONTAIN 609 BILLION CALORIES PER OUNCE."

    This reminds me... We took my girlfriends car to the DMV to get the title transferred over to her and they realized that somebody actually put the mileage of the car as almost 700,000 miles when the car was sold to her parents instead of the appropriate 70,000 miles. The guy in the back that had to verify the odometer said he has NEVER seen a car with over 400,000 miles on the car. Wow. You'd think that there would be some sort of check in the software or something. Otherwise the title could say: "609 BILLION!!!11one!!"

  • ||

    you know that the "slippery slope" is a well-known logical fallacy, right?

  • ||

    you know that the "slippery slope" is a well-known logical fallacy, right?

    OK, take 2...

    Funny how the real world keeps providing data contrary to the fallacy.

  • ||

    you know that the "slippery slope" is a well-known logical fallacy, right?

    In logic, it is a fallacy. Unfortunately, government action and logic have little to do with each other.

  • Scott Stein||

  • ||

    Ahhhhhhhhhhh yes.

    I love the smell of Pure Nanny Cluelessness in the morning.

    You know, people are fat because they think donuts are a low calorie food.

  • ||

    "How accurate is the "Calorie Count" on food labels, anyway. If something has "165 Calories per Serving", is it really165? Common sense says there has to be an error margin, but what is it? If my independent lab indicates 165.2, instead of the advertised 165.0 calories do I have basis for a class-action suit."

    FDA regs allow calories to be rounded down. So a zero calorie product may actually have several calories and depending on the serving size, the amount you consume could contain even more.

    Mass produced food sold at your grocery store tends to reflect reported nutritional information very accurately. Restaurant food does not. Even in a fast food joint with very standardized serving sizes, the amount of mayo slathered on a sandwich, or the number of fries in your large fries can vary significantly with each individual order. The problem is more pronounced in casual dining establishments when servings of something like pasta or mashed potatoes may be based on nothing more than the cook's eye.

    Even if you're one who finds all this mandated nutritional nonsense to be a good idea, the fact remains that the information provided may be no more worthwhile than the common sense of the dimwitted.

  • ||

    R C Dean - you know that the "slippery slope" is a well-known logical fallacy, right?

    Think of it this way: An appeal to authority is also a fallacy because authorities are sometimes wrong. An argument from authority does not prove anything. But guess what? Authorities are sometimes correct. Slippery slopes do happen, just not always.

    Read a logic book, goofball. ;^P

  • Geotpf||

    Requiring companies to supply info on their products is not a bad thing; it allows consumers to know what they are buying. I don't see the problem here. (Well, the "15 restraunt" thing is a little fishy, but it's not much different than other laws that exempt small companies from certain regulations.)

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Consumers may also know what they are buying by DEMANDING THAT INFORMATION THEMSELVES or otherwise taking their business elsewhere.

  • ||

    Requiring companies to supply info on their products is not a bad thing; it allows consumers to know what they are buying. I don't see the problem here.

    Do you see any distinction at all between "not a bad thing" and "should be required by law, and enforced with fines and possibly the loss of your business"?

  • ||

    If this policy only requires that information be displayed, I don't see this as paternalism.

    It seems more like extra effort to ensure informed consent.

  • ||

    If this policy only requires that information be displayed, I don't see this as paternalism.

    Then you need to pot down the distortion field. Short of direct and immediate danger, no business should be compelled by law to tell you anything beyond what is neccessary to operate the business in a normal manner. If they want to tell you as part of doing business, go nuts, I know I have no problem with that.

    Unfortunately, lawyers and politicians see it differently. We all need to be treated as if everyone is a drooling moron. If you see a car in a commercial jumping over waterfalls doing 360's in midair and turning water into wine, you need to be told that this is being performed by professional stuntmen/messiahs and should not be attempted at home.

    Do not insert sharp end into eye! Do not place bag over head! Do not place hand into flame! Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball!

    Ya think?

  • wellsphere||

    I think it's a great idea restaurants are being asked to post info. It's amazing how hard restaurant chains are fighting to hide their nutrition information. It's hard to eat well when eating out, especially when you have dietary needs or want to watch your calorie intake. Often food items that seem healthy and are marketed that way are not. For this reason, my company just launched a new service called 'Wellternatives' that lets people find nutrition info for thousands of chain restaurants - right from their cell phone or on the web. It also makes recommendations for a healthier alternative to your favorite restaurant meals, hence the name…Wellternatives. Would love to hear what you think of it! Sara

  • ||

    JW

    By "paternalism" I mean a policy that is calculated to protect an adult from his or her own decisions by limiting that person's options. This could be by direct prohibition (as with drug prohibition) or by various regulations and other burdens (as with the absurdly high taxes on cigarrettes). Such policies restrict what the target of paternalism can do.

    Mandating the display of calorie levels does not prevent the consumer from ordering a high-calorie meal. It doesn't reduce the number of such meanls one can afford, or make it more burdensome to order one. So I don't regard it as paternalistic. It is not "protecting someone from him or her self".

    I don't really have a strong opinion on this, but I'd be strongly opposed to a policy that is paternalistic as described above.

    Unfortunately, lawyers and politicians see it differently. We all need to be treated as if everyone is a drooling moron.

    If that is true then I'd rather they get out of their system this way, as opposed to say a junk food tax or banning (more) specific ingredients.

  • ||

    Mandating the display of calorie levels does not prevent the consumer from ordering a high-calorie meal. It doesn't reduce the number of such meanls one can afford, or make it more burdensome to order one. So I don't regard it as paternalistic. It is not "protecting someone from him or her self".

    As already noted, "yet."

    Your threshold for paternalism is much higher than mine. At best, this is nannyism. What it truly is, is someplace than the state has no business sticking it's nose into. It's not the proper role for a government.

    If you want a business to supply you with this information, then lobby them to do so. If they don't, then vote with your feet and dollars and go elsewhere. You don't have the right to know the caloric or nutrtional content of what you eat. It's nice if you do, but don't go acting like you have some holy claim on this information.

    You're rolling over for this one because it benefits you, the small price to freedom be damned. Was dictating the contents of recipes paternalistic to you? How far can the state intrude before you stop rolling?

  • ||

    You're rolling over for this one because it benefits you, the small price to freedom be damned.

    No, I'm "rolling over" because it seems to me that this policy is different only in degree, not in kind, from policies I already support.

    For example, suppose I started a bar and one of my special recipies included a martini with a small dosage of cyanide for flavor. A small dose mind you; only enough to be fatal to 25% of the population. Do I have an obligation to somehow ensure that my customers are informed about this? Or is it the responsibiility of a customer who doesn't want cyanide to ask me if there is any cyanide in my house martini; and to go somewhere else if I refuse to answer?

    If somebody died wihout knowing what was in it, and I said "You don't have the right to know the cyanide or nutritional content of what you drink. It's nice if you do, but don't go acting like you have some holy claim on this information.", would you accept that argument? After all, I have the right to run my business how I like, and I never falsely claimed that all my drinks are cyanide free. It is not my fault that customers simply assume that their drinks are cyanide free, just like its not a restraunt owner's fault if a customer underestimates the number of calories in what they order.

    You may reject the analogy on grounds that the cyanide thing is a matter of immediate life or death. But it is plausible that some people die, or suffer heart attacks or other injuries, after ordering many high-calorie meals in which they thought the calorie level was lower. So having this information is potentially relevant to knowing that one is taking a life-or-death risk with certain diets. That is why I say this is different in degree, not in kind, from mandating cyanide disclosure.

    Business owners don't have a right to customers that are ignorant of the risks involved with use of their product. The question of when a special effort like this should be made to ensure informed consent is more of a pragmatic question in my view; not a question of a fundemental right of merchants to withold information about the risks associated with their goods.

    Was dictating the contents of recipes paternalistic to you?

    Yes, as indicated by my last post, and I am strongly opposed to such dictation. Dictating the content of recipies is not ensuring informed consent. It is saying "you can't have this at restraunts, even if you are informed and want to consent".

  • ||

    You may reject the analogy on grounds that the cyanide thing is a matter of immediate life or death. But it is plausible that some people die, or suffer heart attacks or other injuries, after ordering many high-calorie meals in which they thought the calorie level was lower.

    I don't reject it; I repudiate it. That's an absurd, and laughable, analogy; (stops and considers Mr. Creosote...). I'm sorry you felt the need to waste so many words on it.

    So having this information is potentially relevant to knowing that one is taking a life-or-death risk with certain diets.

    If you can't recognize which foods are unhealthier foods by the time you have health issues from diet, you've got far bigger problems.

    That is why I say this is different in degree, not in kind, from mandating cyanide disclosure.

    Holding your head underwater for 30 seconds is different in degree from holding it under for 5 minutes. I'll leave it up to you to see the degree.

    Business owners don't have a right to customers that are ignorant of the risks involved with use of their product.

    Wha?

    The question of when a special effort like this should be made to ensure informed consent is more of a pragmatic question in my view; not a question of a fundemental right of merchants to withold information about the risks associated with their goods.

    Keep paving that road. You'll get there yet.

  • ||

    If you can't recognize which foods are unhealthier foods by the time you have health issues from diet, you've got far bigger problems.

    Maybe, but at least this helps solve the smaller problem of lacking certain relevant information.

    You also seem to have a problem with my last paragraph.

    Do merchants have a general right to withold information on the risks of their products?

    Or are you arguing only for a more narrow right? Say, a right against being required to reiterate specific information, at the point of purchase, about risks that are already common knowledge.

    If it is the former; what would you think of Mereck if (in a free market, FDA-less, parallel universe) they marketed Vioxx without mentioning any risks at all? Would they be within their rights? Patients are free try to contact the researchers who did the studies, or to do their own double blind study. And if thats too inconvenient, you can look for a company that says they disclose all their known risks. Indeed you'd have a hard time condeming even BG's Cyanide Lounge, since I would have a fundemental right to withold the relevant information.

    If it is something like the latter, more narrow argument, then you can more readily distinguish between this calorie display thing and other situations in which dislosure is clearly necessary. But even then, what do you think of mandatory warning labels on cigarette packs? Does that violate the rights of tobacco merchants?

    It is often the case (as with cigarettes in the early 1960s or certain foods today) that most people have a vague understanding that their is some risk (cancer, heart attack, weight problems, etc.) associated with the activity. However not everyone will be aware of these things. And those who are aware in that general sense might lack certain details that would be of interest to them in their decision-making process.

    In such cases, I don't have a problem with government action (provided the burden it imposes is neglegible) calculated to bring such details to people's attention. For example, with the warning labels on cigarette packs, I wouldn't mind if they starting including a graph along with it, numerically illustrating the relationship between the level of consumption and the level of risk.

    I don't know if you will see this post, but if so I recommend we continue this conversation in the Nicotine Vapors thread.

  • ||

    You also seem to have a problem with my last paragraph.

    The only problem I have is that it's non-senseical.

    I'll keep this short and sweet: You are attempting to draw sweeping analogies between food, let me repeate that for clarity, *food*, and hypothetical situations involoving poisoning and drug contra effects. It doesn't wash, not for a second.

    It's food. Not contaminated food. Not radioactive food. Not food that will cause genetic mutations. Food, just food. Nothing special.

    If you don't like the practice of non-disclosure of any restaurant, you are free to not dine there. Do you demand to know the caloric content of your steak at at the local bistro, or do you jut assume that it has high content and other things which the calorie-mided should avoid?

    Get enough people who feel the same way you do, lobby the businesses to do so and they will change their practice if they know it will benefit them. Otherwise, it's just you and a few of other obsessed whiners who think that the tidal wave of the already publicly available nutritional information and research (not to mention the family doctor's advice that you have received your entire life) just isn't enough to educate them on healthy eating. No, it takes a state-mandated chart on the menu to do that.

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