Wednesday, September 01, 2010

High Caloric Stupidity

It wasn't bad enough that Mother Bloomberg-without a scintilla of scientific evidence to demonstrate efficacy-implemented a calorie counting rule (not law) in NYC? Now, doubling down on stupidity-since the post rule studies show little or no effect on consumer choice-the federal government is getting into the act. All we can say is that the ideologues over at Center for Science in the Public Interest must be pigging out over all of this-after all-CSPI was the instigator of calorie counting its never ending jihad against fast food.

The WSJ has the gruesome details-and it appears that counting calories may become ubiquitous: "The expansion stems from provisions in the health-care overhaul enacted in March. The government wants calorie listings posted to make it easier for consumers to select healthier options, and the restaurant industry backed the move so it could avoid a patchwork of local ordinances that are developing. So far, the expansion of the calorie counts beyond restaurants has drawn praise from nutrition advocates but push-back from industries that say the original legislation was never intended to hit them."

So, who exactly is covered? Well, just about everyone: "In preliminary guidelines released last week, the Food and Drug Administration said the scope of the law stretches beyond restaurants to encompass airlines, trains, grocery-store food courts, movie theaters and convenience stores that qualify as chains. Within grocery stores, the agency said, it is considering including salad bars, store bakeries, pizza bars and delicatessens. Stadiums aren't listed since they aren't chains."

Now keep in mind that there has yet to be one study done to determine whether all of this will do consumers any good-after all, we've had package nutritional labeling for two decades, and in that time the country has launched, in tribute to the effort, an obesity epidemic: "Research has shown mixed results on whether New York City's requirement has prompted consumers to select healthier foods. A 2009 study published in the journal Health Affairs didn't find evidence that menu labeling influenced the total number of calories purchased by New York residents. A Stanford University study of Starbucks outlets in New York City found that average calories per transaction fell by 6% after menu listings took effect."

Take a second look at the above information. In traditional fast food joints-no effect; but in upscale Starbucks, catering to the thinner latte crowd, a minimal impact. And, of course, no one bothered to do any costing of the measure for the beleaguered businesses-another mandate for small business, courtesy of ObamaCare.

As we pointed out last year-citing the NY Times: "So, as we warned New Yorkers when the silly idea of calorie posting was first proposed, there was no evidence that the concept would have the slightest effect on the behavior of fast food customers-and we have been proven correct. As the NY Times reports today, the whole experiment has been a colossal waste of time and money: "A study of New York City’s pioneering law on posting calories in restaurant chains suggests that when it comes to deciding what to order, people’s stomachs are more powerful than their brains...It found that about half the customers noticed the calorie counts, which were prominently posted on menu boards. About 28 percent of those who noticed them said the information had influenced their ordering, and 9 out of 10 of those said they had made healthier choices as a result. But when the researchers checked receipts afterward, they found that people had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect, in July 2008."

Let us put this as simply as possible: menu labeling is just the tip of the ObamaCare iceberg. If nothing is done to drastically alter-but preferably repeal-this law, the calorie counting will eventually be seen as only a minor nuisance. But make no mistake about it, if the Feds are paying for your health care, well, you know the old saying, "He who pays the piper calls the tune." And it will be an off-key tune that all of us will be forced to dance to, whether we have the rhythm or not.