Conspicuous Calorie Counts Coming

As the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reminds us, the health care bill that will soon become law includes a requirement that restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets conspicuously display calorie information on their menus and menu boards. The National Restaurant Association backed the mandate, which it preferred to a proliferation of different state and local rules. It also lobbied for the 20-location cutoff, which exempts many of its members, while the big chains opposed it.

Since calorie information has long been available at fast food chains to those who are motivated to seek it, I’ve always been skeptical that making it impossible to avoid would have much of an impact on people’s eating habits or waistlines. Now that the requirement is being imposed nationwide, making inter-jurisdictional comparisons problematic, we may never know for sure, although menu mandate supporters will no doubt take credit for any change in weight trends that follows the law’s enactment. Questions of effectiveness aside, in-your-face calorie counts, when they result from legal compulsion rather than customer demand, cross the line between informing people and nagging them.

I discussed the federal menu mandate in a 2009 column. More on conspicuous calorie counts here. Me on CSPI here.

[Thanks to Brad Rodu for the tip.]

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  • ||

    I will enjoy the fits the do-gooders have when people stop eating responsibly because they have free health care.

  • ed||

    Since calorie information has long been available to those who are motivated to seek it...

    It's not the final solution. Just another step along the way.

  • lolcat||

    i can't haz cheezburger?

  • Post||

    I used to look up the calorie information at fast food places so that I could get the biggest bang for my buck. If enough other people think like that, I doubt you'll see the menu mandate supporters taking the credit for the results.

  • prolefeed||

    Who actually needs calorie counts to judge how fattening something is? As a general rule, the better it tastes, without additional spices, the more calories. And, really, people can't taste sugar and fat? Srsly?

  • Post||

    If you shop at a combination Taco Bell/KFC outlet, it can be hard to tell whether the double-decker taco for $0.49 special or another strip of fried chicken is going to be your best bet.

  • ||

    However his Royal Highness has decreed that the Double Cheeseburger will now cost $1.19 instead of $1.00 meaning you now get 387 calories per dollar instead of 460.

  • Almanian||

    Still a screamin' deal

  • wow||

    I didn't realize the Burger King was a real person!

  • Jamie L. ||

    Jacob's skepticism applies to my conduct, at least. I am always Googling calorie counts before I get fast food just so I am not ultra disgusting. I can tell you off the top of my head almost the entire Taco Bell menu's calorie information. On the other hand, there are certain times (hangovers...after being with my health-nut parents for too long...) when I know damn well that the Backyard Burger that I am about to consume has 750 calories. I just don't care because I'm hung over and I want it.

    Forcing conspicuous placement is a waste of time.

  • Bingo||

    I agree. I'm a bit of a nutrition nut myself, and I think most people that are interested in that sort of thing already look it up online.

    It's a waste of time to post this stuff in a world of iphones. The information is already out there for those that are interested.

  • ||

    People are too busy ordering off pizza hut's website with their iphones to look up nutritional info in line at mcdonalds.

  • ||

    I am not sure whether this will worry many restaurants( Well, I do know it will) but one thing is for certain and that is all these restaurant owners are going to get pain , after this health care bill passes on! Calories are something that is abundant in restaurant foods nowadays and this health care bill does not seem to like many calories after all. Let us see whether how things are going to work for people with busy lifestyles as well!

  • ||

    Center for Science in the Public Interest

    Has there ever been a more completely bogus name?

  • nobody||

    Democratic People's Republic of Korea?

  • ||

    Well, it is a Center, so its not 100% inaccurate.

  • ||

    And they're "for" putting something "in the" ass of America, too.

  • ||

    Say, what with all the gigantic portions people want in the marketplace, what exactly would happen if the government took real steps to restrict our access to the Triple Whopper with Cheese, Mega fries, and Gallon o' Coke combo? I think that's less touching the third rail and more standing in front of the train.

  • ed||

    what exactly would happen if the government took real steps to restrict our access to the Triple Whopper with Cheese

    Burgernacht.

  • ||

    Love it. I see visions of sesame seeds all over the ground, afterward.

  • ed||

    Golden arches painted on people's windows...fry cooks disappearing overnight...

  • ||

    First they came for the fast food cooks, and I said nothing. . . .

  • Jeffersonian||

    You can have my Ultimate Cheeseburger when you pry it from my cold, dead, greasy fingers.

  • ed||

    Burgernacht is viewed by many historians as the beginning of the Final Solution, leading toward the persecution and genocide of the Fatties, Tubbies and Lard Butts.

  • ||

    Would you like some Arbeit Macht Fries with that?

  • ed||

    Sure! (Rolls up sleeve.) Will you need to see my I.D.?

  • ||

    Just your papers, please.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Did anyone know this would be in the bill?

  • short, fat bastard||

    Nancy said you wouldn't know everything until after you bought the pig in the poke.

  • ||

    It was 100% inevitable, if not in this bill, then soon.

    Now that the government oversees all of everyone's health care, anything you do that can affect your health is the government's business.

  • ||

    Poor health choices are now a form of high patriotism.

    *puffs cigarette, and sips cola*

  • ||

    *prepares SWAT response*

  • Random Dude||

    Then you would inevitably get a program like this.

    I'm pretty sure if that ever happened in America, we'd have serious problems.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I really fucking hate all professional or trade organizations. I certainly don't need the one that claims to represent my field, telling me what I can and can not have opinions on. And the fuck with them if they think its a great idea emulate doctors, and force everyone in to rigid specializations. The regulators are bad enough. I will sign off on any god damn thing I want.

  • ed||

    I'm sitting here with a Heineken and a big jar of pickled sausages. In another couple of years my behavior will be a felony.

  • ||

    Will be? You didn't read the healthcare bill, did you?

  • ||

    'Cause it's treason, now.

  • ed||

    I thought I had till 2014!

  • ||

    They just can't execute you until then.

  • ed||

    Right, right. Have to raise the revenues first.

  • ||

    Hey, that's a lot of bullets they're going to need! Have some sympathy.

  • Xeones||

    Honestly, after con-gress fucked us all down unto the generations last night, i'm having a real hard time getting worked up about this.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Yeah. It's just one more turd on a huge pile of shit.

  • ||

    Embrace the madness, X-man.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    1. Calories are not equivalent. Fat calories, carb calories, and protein calories are processed differently by the body and produce different fat/muscle outcomes. Within those macro categories there are even more considerations, such as glycemic index, transfat v. saturated v. monounsaturated, etc.

    2. No one with an IQ over 70 thinks McDonalds is health food. Fact is, the folks eating it don't care.

    3. Instead of posting calorie counts, how about we post how many tax dollars subsidized the high fructose corn syrup and hydrolyzed soy protein in their fake foods?

  • ed||

    No one with an IQ over 70 thinks McDonalds is health food

    Do you know Snooki?

  • Jersey Patriot||

    IQ < 70

  • Bingo||

    Hahahahaha

  • prolefeed||

    No one with an IQ over 70 thinks McDonalds is health food. Fact is, the folks eating it don't care.

    Their Southwest Chicken Salad with grilled chicken is reasonably healthy. I eat that from time to time. I DO care what I eat, but when I take my kid horseback riding in the country in Waimanalo, Mickey Ds is what is available to go to.

  • ||

    Horse meat is very lean and high in protein.

  • ||

    Buffalo is lean.

  • James C. Bennett||

    And delicious!

  • ||

    As someone who eats a lot of fast food but also tries to watch my waistline, I can tell you that calorie information does cause me to eat more sometimes. What happens is I will look at the amount of calories in something I eat at one place that I find satisfying (say 900 for a meal), and then try to match that number at another restaurant. I might have been happy to eat a mexican pizza and a taco from Taco Bell, but when you realize that's only about 700 calories, you start thinking you ought to add that second taco to make it an even 900.

  • Texatarian||

    And some people insist they're eating better, while still eating more.
    http://gothamist.com/2009/10/0....._law_m.php

  • ||

    they can have my twinkie when they pry it out of my cold, cream filled hand...
    (and by twinkie I do not mean a young gay lad, but the delectable similar to a cupcake, but not a female, and by creme filled...O, its just too hard...and by too hard....

  • Michael Scott||

    That's what she said.

  • Chad||

    I find it odd that everyone focuses on fast food joints. They have always been quite transparent with calorie data. Hell, I knew how many calories a Big Mac and Fries had when I was a kid back in the mid eighties.

    The restaurants that are both secretive and have utterly attrocious food from a health perspective are the sit-down chains like Applebees, Chilis, Outback, etc. They serve "appetizers" with enough calories for two typical women for a whole day (and enough fat for a week), and until recently, virtually none of this information was available.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Fuck you, Chad. As long as the food isn't tainted or spoiled, it's not up to Daddy Government to force the owners to post the info.

    You paternalists fucking disgust me.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I find it odd that everyone focuses on fast food joints. They have always been quite transparent with calorie data. Hell, I knew how many calories a Big Mac and Fries had when I was a young, insufferable socialist douche back in the mid eighties.

  • $||

    Was? What has changed, the "young" part?

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    They serve "appetizers" with enough calories for two typical women for a whole day (and enough fat for a week),

    Sexist!

  • Chad||

    No, just biology. I would have said two people for a day, but the Outback Chili Cheese fries don't QUITE have twice the daily recommendation for an adult male.

    However, until a couple years ago, you could only guess how bad these things were. Then, a few jurisdictions required them to make it public, thankfully.

  • lukas||

    I'm sure no one mistook Chili Cheese fries for health food before that, either. If you care how many calories are in your food, you aren't likely to order them in the first place.

  • Michelle Obama||

    I like where my thrall, Chad, is going with this.

    Furthermore - oh, excuse me, I have to talk to my lardass daughters for a moment...

  • Jeffersonian||

    And remember it all started with a little warning on the side of a pack of cigarettes. Just a little warning, that's all. And maybe tar and nicotine figures...to inform the smoker. It'll never go further than that.

    But of course, as with all snuggle-puppy Stalinists, when seduction of the objects of their affection fails, they turn to forcible rape.

  • Nascent Smoking Banners||

    We just want nonsmoking sections in restaurants! Is that so unreasonable?

  • ||

    Climate data for the past 100yrs has irrefutably shown that slippery slopes don't exist.

  • Pedantry||

    Outback Steakhouse does not serve Chili Cheese Fries.

  • Paul||

    As the Center for "Science" in the "Public Interest"

    Corrected, by the Executive Director of the Center for Good Things that People Want.

  • ||

    Is there such thing as a principled democrat? I don't know of any that support mandating fast food joints post calorie counts and are also in favor of mandating people provide an electronic record listing all the STDs they have before engaging in sex. The latter seems much more socially beneficial than the prior to me.

    I sense bias is getting in the way when the democrats hear the word corporation.

  • ||

    I liked the Brad Pitt approach to truth in labeling in Inglourious Basterds.

  • ||

    "The Arby's Double 3,000" - I can't wait to see how this is marketed.

  • ||

    It would be the "Arby's D3K"

  • ||

    Of all the things the "nannies" are doing, this is the least offensive to me.

  • ed||

    But with this nanny, there's no safeword.

  • ||

    Great SITE for documentaries check it out, knowledge is power

    http://freeviewdocumentaries.com

  • jtuf||

    The Miss American contest started as a say to celibrate and encourage healthy living. Instead of madating calorie information, we should just have hot models in swim suits stand outside the restuarant as possitive encouragement.

  • ||

    You joke, but it actually might work.

  • ||

    Having more information easily available is not a problem for me. I'm too lazy to look up the information, but having it in front of me might, on occasion, nudge me to reconsider whether I want the large or small fries. So I appreciate it when restaurants put the calories right up front -- just like they put their prices right up front. (I can't stand restaurants with a snooty "if you have to ask you can't afford it," policy where you search the menu in vain for a single $ sign.)

    But once I know, I don't want anyone telling me not to eat those fries. Give me the information, but the choice has to remain mine.

  • ||

    Sorry, but now that i pay for your healthcare the choice is mine.

    Put down the fries and go do a few laps.

  • ||

    All of the bitching about nanny sates and how requiring a business to simply tell customers what is in their product is an assault on freedom is perplexing to say the least.

    I believe strongly in individual liberty, but I also believe that for consumers to make decent decisions they need to know what is in the product they are purchasing. For example, the requirement that processed food manufacturers print the amount of trans-fats on their products has lead not to a banning of trans-fats (which I oppose), but it did lead consumers to demand that processed foods be lower in trans-fats.

    Thus, for liberty to truly exist consumers must be able to make informed choices and requiring a company to provide information is not an denial of liberty, it actually allows for liberty.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  • ||

    requiring a company to provide information is not an denial of liberty, it actually allows for liberty.

    Slavery is Freedom!

    For people to use information, they must first want information. If they want information about their food, they can find it without mandates.

    This kind of mandate is the classic first step to a full-on regulatory regime. It serves no other purpose.

  • ||

    the requirement that processed food manufacturers print the amount of trans-fats on their products has lead not to a banning of trans-fats

    Yeah, they only banned it in restaurants. They can't possibly ban processed foods with transfat. Nope never.

    At the most, restaurants will have to provide a non-transfats section of seating.

  • ||

    Oops, did i give my assurance that the bans won't slide down a slippery slope after they'd already gone slidin'?

    Sucks to be you, fatties.

    (Beer gut? what's that? let go of my beer, ow ow, where are you taking me!)

  • ||

    I suppose in your tinfoil hat wearing world you would also end the requirement for the posting of fuel economy on cars. As this is a clear violation of a car companies right to make any car they wish. And after-all if you want to know the fuel economy you can simply test drive one for fifty or sixty miles and perform your own fuel economy tests right?

    Should products have to list their ingredients? I mean really, you should KNOW that a Baby Ruth contains peanuts, it not sucks for you, right?

    Should a product list its calories? I mean you have a calorimeter on your kitchen counter right, I forgot in the libertarian world commonsense tells you exactly how many calories your consuming.

    The irony is that you f-tards fail to see that information is REQUIRED for fully functioning markets, the better and more complete the information the more rational the market becomes.

    For example in the area of medical care simply the lack of clear information about health care pricing is a key problem with the market and is a chief cause of medical care market failure.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  • ||

    Here's an idea, why don't us american's get healthy.

    We can totally boycott all fast and processed food

    ....and then watch as unemployment reaches 25-35% when those industries go belly up.

  • ||

    (damn you apostrophe, damn you)

  • ||

    I used to look up the calorie information at fast food places so that I could get the biggest bang for my buck. If enough other people think like that, I doubt you'll see the menu mandate supporters taking the credit for the results rezultate live

  • dunk||

    unemployment reaches 25-35% when those industries go belly up.

  • soccer picks||

    Now that I have discovered the cause of obesity with the release of the reversal of weight gain, any and all current food health theories will come under close scrutiny. Very few will pass.

    Hart Oldenburg

  • camisetas baratas futbol||

    Honestly, after con-gress fucked us all down unto the generations last night, i'm having a real hard time getting worked up about this.If enough other people think like that, I doubt you'll see the menu mandate supporters taking the credit for the results.

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