Monday, January 28, 2008

Posted Calorie Confusion

In yesterday's NY Post, the paper reviewed the anticipated calorie posting regulation that the Board of Health passed last week. Unfortunately, the paper is as confused about all of this as fast food customers will be if the regulation survives an anticipated legal challenge. Here's the Post's take: "-- Holy guacamole! Is it any wonder that the restaurant industry opposed New York City's new calorie-labeling law? Would you broadcast to diners that a vegetarian burrito at Chipotle can reach 900 calories or that the Signature salad at Cosi with shallot dressing and bread nears 1,000 calories?"

Talk about swallowing the unhealthy DOH propaganda! First of all, the burrito posting will not, because of the myriad combinations of possible burrito selections, be on each item. Even the clueless fast food haters at DOH couldn't require fast food outlets to post calories on every conceivable menu items-the menu board would be out the door and down the block.

Instead the chains of 15 outlets or more will be allowed to post a range for certain items like burritos. So Taco Bell or Chipotle will post the following: Burrito (400-1500 calories). A burrito consumer will simply have no idea what her burrito combo contains; which is precisely why the industry opposes the regulation.

But it gets even better. The Post has a chart that lists some kind of Starbucks Mocha drink at 630. If you check the Starbucks nutrition pamphlet, however, you'll find that the coffee chain has thousands of possible combinations; something that makes the following Post observation absurd: "Some chains make nutrition information available on their Web sites or on eye-straining charts posted in restaurant corners."

When there are hundreds or even thousands of possible offerings, you can't help the small print-unless the city requires that every customer should be mandated to receive a nutrition textbook along with their meal. In addition, the Post misleads further when it starts to add dressing and condiment information to its own chart. The calorie posting will not require this, so a customer ordering a salad will be totally misinformed if he adds a calorie-laden dressing.

The sheer impossibility of practically complying with the posting regulation in a way that will actually aid customers is what animates the industry opposition-along with the cost of compliance. And our friend Lynn Silver's comments to the paper only exacerbates the situation: "Dr. Lynn Silver, assistant commissioner at the city Health Department, said the industry apparently does not want diners to count calories. "We would ask, 'What are they so ashamed of?' " Silver said."

Clearly, Dr. Silver's remarks underscore the basic anti-business animus that underlies these kinds of regulatory forays. Unmentioned by either the Post or the good doctor is the fact that the department of health never conducted any efficacy studies to determine whether calorie posting would actually be used to guide customer choice. In fact, there none-and the current obesity epidemic is almost coterminous with the FDA's requirement that food manufacturers list nutritional information on food packaging.

Folks aren't getting the message, but the fast food haters (hey Lynn when did you last have a Big Mac?) won't stop in their jihad because they have no concern what the unintended costs of their regulations might do to the industry that is the most successful incubator of minority entrepreneurship in the country. They should be ashamed of violating all of their public health methodology guidelines in their ideological pursuit of a health dictatorship.