Food Labels Will Make Eating Up to $5.27 Billion Less Pleasurable Over the Next 20 Years, Sez FDA

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Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published elaborate new regulations about food labeling, as required by one of the more obscure sections of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Tucked inside those regulations were the results of a study done about the costs of the new labeling rules.

On the upside, the government calculated, labeling would likely reduce obesity and diabetes. (Though Reason's own Jacob Sullum has called that claim into question, citing research that calorie labeling may not change behavior very much at all.) But on the downside, Reuters reports, the FDA notes that

consumers will suffer up to $5.27 billion in "lost pleasure" over 20 years when calorie counts on restaurant menus discourage people from ordering french fries, brownies and other high-calorie favorites.

Here's how the math works: 

The agency also put a dollar value on the lost enjoyment consumers might feel if the calorie figures made them avoid certain foods, such as an 800-calorie brownie, in favor of, say, a 100-calorie apple. The calculation does not include any gain in immediate pleasure if the consumer enjoys the apple more than the brownie or feels virtuous for healthier eating.

The agency's economists estimated the lost pleasure at $2.2 billion to $5.27 billion over 20 years. That range reflects the imprecise science of assigning dollar values to lost enjoyment, they explained. They then subtracted those sums from the rule's estimated benefits, cutting them significantly.

The FDA has applied similar analysis in the past to e-cigarettes.

This seems relevant

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  1. Yeah, but it’s a FREE COUNTRY, right? so – it’s all good.

    1. Seriously, nobody has said that other than ironically since late 2001.

      But I hope to live to see the day when people can again say that truthfully and proudly.

  2. When did apples become healthier than brownies!?!?

  3. The agency’s economists estimated the lost pleasure at $2.2 billion to $5.27 billion over 20 years.

    This is beyond retarded. Look, there are definitive and clear costs to moronic food labeling. This is not one of them. I realize that this was a study commissioned by the FDA (or the legislation) and not by critics or anything, but it’s still retarded. It just doesn’t mean…anything.

  4. consumers will suffer up to $5.27 billion in “lost pleasure” over 20 years when calorie counts on restaurant menus discourage people from ordering french fries, brownies and other high-calorie favorites.

    What a ridiculous statement. Pleasure cannot be quantified, so putting a dollar figure on it is farcical.

    1. This is true. But it would be funny if someone started putting costs on all of the stupid government policies and programs that make people’s lives more pleasant.

    2. Pleasure cannot be quantified…

      The nice ladies at Lotus Pavilion massage parlor quantify it at $80 for 30 minutes, or $120 for a one hour massage.

      1. The nice ladies at Lotus Pavilion massage parlor quantify it at $80 for 30 minutes, or $120 for a one hour massage.

        Somehow I knew that someone would come back with this example.

        1. Well, it is a good example.

          But even the pleasure of a chocolate bar can be quantified. If they cost $100 it would be a special treat for most of us to share on special occasions, at $1-5 per bar it’s affordable for most as an everyday thing.

          1. But even the pleasure of a chocolate bar can be quantified.

            No, the cost can be quantified (or price if you prefer), but the the pleasure can not. If you have a $50 steak once a month, you most likely will enjoy it more than if you have it for every meal for a month.

            1. OK, you’re right, that was badly stated on my part. But if people stop buying then the cost/pleasure ratio has been exceeded.

  5. As someone who needs all the calories I can get, I can say this won’t reduce my pleasure in eating at all. If I use the information for anything it will be to choose the most energy dense foods.

    But it will increase my general annoyance and displeasure at stupid government policies a bit. I can only imagine that the pleasure lost to that sort of thing is even greater, probably well into the trillions.

    1. I’m in the same boat. I count my calories and track my macros, so this type of thing would normally be very helpful for someone like me. Just never mind the fact that I’ve been managing just fine at finding all of that information already–and for about a year and a half, at that.

      However, I guess stress has an impact on blood pressure, so I’m going to sue the government for passing this goddamn ridiculous policy that only 1) increases costs and regulations, and 2) infuriates me to no end.

  6. This is so stupid and pointless that only a politician or a civil servant who listens to TED talks in a desperate search to give their empty lives meaning would actually expend energy to do this.

    Clearly the FDA is overmanned if they can divert so much manpower away from their core business of denying patients access to medical treatment. The simplest thing to do is to fire everyone whose name appears on the report. They can find more useful jobs that give them both job satisfaction, are commensurate with their abilities and actually help society – for example, sponge-cleaning gas-station bathrooms on the NJ turnpike.

    1. No, no…cleaning all the bathrooms in Grand Central Station. With their tongue.

      1. Well, I don’t know…making them spend another minute with you might be worse and more useful.

  7. consumers will suffer up to $5.27 billion in “lost pleasure” over 20 years when calorie counts on restaurant menus discourage people from ordering french fries, brownies and other high-calorie favorites.

    What about the “gained pleasure” some people will have from telling other people what to do?

  8. That range reflects the imprecise science of assigning dollar values to lost enjoyment, they explained.

    Or, more colloquially, that range reflects the fact that the numbers are made up bullshit. Hedonic valuations are some of the worst pseudoscience. One of my earliest jobs was working for the guy who got them disallowed under, I think it was PA law. Yes, we know there will be lost pleasure. But, to think you can extrapolate choices the way these estimates assume you can is absurd.

    1. So you’re a “Hedonic Valuation Denier” are you?

    2. Yet Congress mandated it as part of regulatory reform.

      1. What? Lawmakers pushed junk science because they were confident it could be used to suit thier agenda?

        I’m shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you!

  9. On the upside, the government calculated, labeling would likely reduce obesity and diabetes.

    Government calculates that government program works. Shocker.

    Here’s how the math works:

    Your money * the FDA = jack shit.

  10. Here Obamacare goes again, costing nothing and affecting nobody.

    1. Costing nothing? You realize getting food analyzed actually costs a fair chunk of change, right?

      Not to mention, if this causes, say, grocery stores to stop serving pre-cooked or in-store meals, this means that patrons who otherwise would have had a convenient option to get some grub now have to either take the food home and cook it (in the case of say a roast chicken, taking a couple of hours) or go and get food from a restaurant, which takes time also.

      Then again, I guess those are small people and it doesn’t matter if you rob them of their time. Fuck em, right? I bet they don’t even have a subscription to the New Yorker.

      1. Regarding grocery stores’ pre-cooked/in–store/prepared foods, I’ve been led to believe that they’re a large part of what keeps grocery stores open for business, since those types of foods have nice profit margins. This is opposed to other basic foods, which they’re obligated to keep as cheaply-priced as possible so they’re not accused of price-gouging for staples.

        1. Municipalities also like them since they are taxed in the same category as restaurant meals. If it’s hot it’s taxed as a meal, if it’s cold it’s taxed as food.

        2. I wasn’t aware of that. The pre-cooked foods that we’ve been getting from Costco/Wal-Mart/etc have on balance been a great deal, not to mention the convenience of it – I always assumed they were priced that way because they weren’t regulated in the same way as actual restaurants.

          Then again, if I think about it, the grocery stores DO control a lot of the supply chain and are high volume. Probably makes for good margins.

          1. Psssst: at least some of the prepared foods are specifically made with products that have poor shelf-lives that didn’t sell well. So it really helps them with not having to just eat (haha) the costs of those products expiring.

            I, for one, am a huge fan of already prepared meals/foods because I don’t really have a lot of time. I know how to cook, but I’ll pay a little bit more at the store for something ready-made because I can’t be bothered to take the time.

            1. I think the most important thing I’ve learned on this thread is to think before I write.

              I would like do withdraw my hissy-fit post from the record.

              1. You know, there are a lot of “Not sure if serious…” type of posts around here. I’m sure no one will begrudge you the mistake.

            2. That’s a good point about using the about-to-expire stuff. But your local restaurant does that, too.

            3. E. Bellamy seemed to assume in Looking Backward that with economies of scale & div. of labor, few people would choose to prepare their own food, and the great majority would eat out, or get take-out if their circumstances mitigated against going out, and get better quality than home cooking.

          2. No, they are very much regulated in the same way as restaurants. They have to meet the same standards as other commercial kitchens. Also, not every municipality has a special tax on prepared meals. Those are most popular in places with tourism and colleges.

      2. Ummmm….I think he was being sarcastic.

  11. What about the immeasurable joy of losing weight and therefore being able to call other people fatties, even those who aren’t actual fatties but are just heavier than you? Factor that in. Oh, wait, you can’t. SCIENCE SUCKS.

    1. Man, FoE has a huge ass.

      1. Even white boys got to shout. “FoE got back!”

        1. MY BMI IS 22. YOU CAN’T TALK SMACK ABOUT SOMEONE WITH A BMI OF 22.

          1. How much does your badonkadonk take up of that?

          2. “Those could be anyone’s thoughts, fatass.”

            1. And that is absolute BS. According to the BMI Arnold Schwartzenager at his prime was morbidly obese.

              1. As someone who also lifts (not like Arnold, obviously, he’s a god), I’m well aware that BMI is not a very accurate tool for gauging how “fat” someone is.

                I posted because I just think it’s an interested comparative tool. Also, I’m frequently facetious and sarcastic. Welcome to the party.

            2. FoE measures his fat in jiggles per second, not that outdated BMI crap. He can actually reach a harmonic resonance if he shakes his ass at exactly the right speed.

                1. Look, I saw the Mythbusters episode where they busted that. So…yes?

                1. I don’t like what’s going on here.

              1. His ass is so big it hertz?

            3. I’m most like someone in Eritrea.

              Not having to worry about getting fat is nice, I guess. But I am a lot less famine and drought resistant than most people. Good think I don’t actually live in Eritrea.

              1. I’m most like someone from South Africa. … Does this mean I couldn’t be racist if I tried, since I can obviously relate to my black brethren?

            4. If I gain another couple pounds, I’ll be average for Ghana.

        2. Can he twerk?

  12. what will they do when they find out fatty is still gonna fat?

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