Thursday, December 14, 2006

Caloric Acid

In yesterday's NY Times the paper focuses on the Department of Health's inane idea of forcing only those restaurants that actually provide nutritional information to post calorie information on their menus. From the reactions of some New Yorkers the idea is getting a fat thumbs down. As the Times reports, conversations with customers indicates that the goal of the Health Department to create healthier eating "could have a hard time reaching its goal."

The rule is replete with unscientific wishful thinking. One fast food customer told the Times that, "I don't think people who count calories eat at McDonald's." This commonly held perception is right on the money. According to researchers only 7% of all of the folks who eat out actually count calories. Most have no clue as to their meaning or purpose; "Health officials hope the law will at least make a dent in a nation full of calorie dunces. Most people have no idea how many calories they should eat every day or how many calories foods contain..."

As Dr. Marion Nestle of NYU told the Times, "I can't do it, and I figure if I can't do it no one can do it." Dr. Nestle points out that a calorie is an abstract concept that most folks don't grasp; and in the absence of knowledge and awareness the menu labeling becomes an exercise in appearing good without actually doing any good.

Yet, the proposal will do harm to the franchisees who will have to pay for this confusion-Starbucks has 87,000 drink combinations- and the in a hurry New Yorkers who will have to wait while the folks on line in front of them try to puzzle out the menu information. All of which is all the more reason for the City Council to intervene to craft more sensible and comprehensive nutritional requirements for area eateries.