Monday, June 01, 2009

What's Not on the Menu: Good Sense

Governor Paterson, whose plunging poll numbers threaten to soon reach negative-buy a vowel-territory, is looking to boost his popularity by imitating the fool's errand of "Dr. Meddlesome" Frieden on menu labeling. The City Journal has an incisive article on the good doctor-and why the idea of calorie counting should be shelved:

"Frieden favors small, paternalistic measures, and for cash-strapped cities like New York, such measures seem like an inexpensive way to fight the war on obesity. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that they work. Consider the calorie listings at restaurants. In a study of more than 4,000 people published in The American Journal of Public Health, just 0.1 percent of the subjects actually looked at the calorie counts before deciding what to eat. Does anyone order a chocolate shake at McDonald’s and assume that it’s healthful? Undaunted by the results, researchers suggested that perhaps the signage needed to be larger.

It's always that way; undaunted by the failure of their efforts to force healthier eating, the nanny staters simply-kind of like the over eaters-come back to order more of the same: bigger and better in this case, The failure isn't in the concept itself, but in its implementation which always could use more amplification.

According to another public health researcher, doing sensitivity analysis of possible outcomes of menu labeling (Similar to game theory, and lacking in actual data collection): "In addition, simulations of a range of scenarios, suggest that the impact on population weight gain could be greatly enhanced if community education efforts, pricing incentives or other strategies were undertaken to increase the degree to which restaurant patrons use the posted information to select reduced calorie meals."

But, of course, more is needed because there's no evidence that this stuff will have a scintilla of impact-and, as the cited researcher suggests, it's more than likely that those who need the information least-the less weighty-will access the information, while the heavier patrons will not.
But that won't stop those, like the governor, who want to posture as the advance army in the war on obesity.

Which is why a Paterson program bill-A8506-is now circulating in the legislature. David is trying to fatten up his poll numbers by hectoring New Yorkers to lose their heft. It wasn't a good idea when Meddlesome put it forward on behalf of Dr. Bloomberg, and it's not gotten any better on implementation and review in NYC. If Paterson wants us to be healthier there are better ways to go about this, Menu labeling is an idea that is a waste of government effort and an undue burden on the businesses of New York.