Too Much Information II

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Normally, I find "labeling requirement" regulations at least somewhat less noxious than other sorts, since extra information can sometimes help markets work better. But a proposal being considered by the FDA to require nutritional information on restaurant menus seems pretty nuts. As several of the sources quoted in the article note, an individually prepared meal isn't subject to the same level of precision as some mass-produced box of cereal. The potential burden, especially at places where the chef is in the habit of preparing several new "specials" each day, seems huge. And does anyone really think this is going to have a palpable impact on the "obesity epidemic"? Is the 500 lb guy who's about to order another porterhouse steak going to suddenly exclaim: "Oh heavens, there's fat in these things"? Are people who'd be inclined to pay attention to nutritional info currently unaware that pasta dishes are carb-heavy?

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  1. Didn’t you guys tackle this on Reason Express already today?

  2. Wait a minute…pasta dishes are carb heavy?

    Well that explains some things.

  3. I’m willing to bet that the large corporate restaurant interests do not have as many objections to this one.

  4. People are so paranoid about their food. Brendan is right, of course: excessive regulation encourages large companies to get larger and discourages small companies that could form a valid competition.

  5. wouldn’t these causes be better served if restaurants were able to push themselves as being informative about their menus instead of being forced by gunpoint? this way the race would be on to see who could publish the most information about a meal without being too bald about it, and then driving away people who want to pretend that what they’re eating exists in some sort of caloric limbo.

  6. From the article:

    ” Indeed, folks who munch during movies might consider fasting for a day. A large popcorn with butter has 1,650 calories, and a 42-ounce Coke has 410 calories. ”

    Did the asshole who wrote this ever go to the movies? A large popcorn is usually split among two people, with 20% of it spilled on the floor and another 20% uneaten and thrown in the garbage. A 42-ounce Coke at a theater is generally about 16 ounces of soda and 26 ounces of ice.

    The real story isn’t that people are fat, it’s that people are getting ripped off.

  7. Hmm. “Most proposals would require labelling for chains with 20 or more restaurants to label menus.” Apparently DC and six other states are going this way, and somebody wants to make it federal. I was wondering this morning which fast food joints have to give out nutritional information. It seems like what they really want is to go after say Red Lobster, Chevy’s, etc. rather than make the local place label everything.
    Whatever labelling requirements they pass aren’t going to do squat about American obesity though.

  8. Labeling of menus is exasperating. Many chains already provide nutritional information on their websites and some have the information in the store Evidently nutrition information is important to some people because the chains tend to provide it already. Why is this regulation even needed?

    What is this bureaucratic fascination with mandating one-size-fits-all solutions to problems? We already have a diversity of approaches to the issue of providing nutrition information in restaurants. Why is that not acceptable?

  9. Hasn’t this experiment already been tried? I haven’t been at a McDonald’s for a long while, but I hear that they list nutritional information for the food they serve. I know other fast food places do this. So has it convinced people to consistently cut back? If not, then the debate should be over… even for nanny-statists.

    And contrary to popular mythology, if you eat a relatively well balanced diet, and you listen carefully to your body is trying to tell you, you’ll know when you’ve eaten enough. Amazing things, all those millions and millions of years of evolution.

  10. I’d like to see food sold more like gasoline. They could give an octane rating and a price per gallon.

  11. Two words or, more accurately, a phrase: Nanny State.

  12. This is only slightly less dumb and annoying than the EU regulation requiring farmers to stamp every egg (not the carton) with their home address, the details of the hen which laid the egg, the method of production, the code for the producer-packer, and a sell-by date:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2003/02/08/dl0803.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2003/02/08/ixoplead.html

  13. Can these nanny-staters say “voluntary?” I watch my weight very carefully, and work out as well; except on the days when I give myself permission to be “bad” with food, I do not like to undermine my workouts with a burger dripping in Swiss and mushrooms (yum). So, I often eat at the Applebee’s closest to me, where they have some lo fat offerings that include an exact fat gram count on the menu. That gets my business. (And the food is passably good, which of course helps.)

    Duh. Consumer choice and free markets. What a concept.

  14. You want to see a bunch of fat asses, go to the FDA offices at Parklawn drive in Rockville, Maryland. They probably won’t let you in for that purpose, but man if you do get in you’ll see people in there who haven’t even heard the word ‘exercise’ for decades.

    I’ve got the old spare tire myself but some of those folks at the FDA were scarier than an elephant seal, I tell you.

    I don’t know if that has any effect on the regulations they put out but who knows, maybe they’re just trying to get us all to do their work for them so they can get back to the bon-bons.

  15. Perhaps it is too much to ask that chain restaurants include nutritional information on the menus, but there should be some information available for customers who are interested. Anyone who is trying to eat healthily should probably try to stay away from chain restaurants, but sometimes eating at these places is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Perhaps because of the large serving sizes at these restaurants, salad or low fat options may be disingenuous. According the “The Complete Food Counter” by Annette Natow and Jo-Ann Heslin, one serving of Applebee’s low fat asian chicken salad contains 623 calories. Thus, nutritional information should be available in order for customers who are interested to be able to make an informed decision about what they eat.

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