Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fraudulent Calorie Posturing

We have been inveighing against menu labeling ever since the execrable NYC health commissioner, Tom Frieden introduced the cockamamie scheme. And as the evidence continues to pile in, we find that there is even less reason to like the idea-mainly because it doesn't work! CNN has the latest on this: "Posting calories on menus has little effect on what customers buy, according to a recent study. Customers at TacoTime (a western Washington chain)  who read how many calories are in their chimichangas, burritos and tacos on the restaurant's menu were just as likely to order them as people who don’t have that information. For 13 months, researchers recorded food purchases at seven suburban TacoTimes and seven inside Seattle, Washington. Seattle passed a law requiring that all fast food chains post their calories, fat and sodium content to the menus in 2009."

Not even a little bit of an effect: "Once the law went into effect, public health researchers in Seattle  and researchers from Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School compared what people were buying at TacoTimes inside and outside the city. Contrary to their hypothesis, “We found no difference,” said lead author Eric Finkelstein.  “We looked at the variables – the transactions, total calories per transaction, food, dessert, entrees. We weren’t able to find any effect whatsoever.”

As the CNN report goes on to point out, this result isn't a shock-because, as have said many times, the current obesity epidemic is coterminous with the inception of nutritional labeling on packaged food: "This may not be totally surprising. After all, obesity rates have continued to soar after pre-packaged foods were required to carry nutritional content, said Finkelstein, an associate professor of health services at Duke-National University of Singapore. Similar studies about calorie counts in menus have found either small, marginal effects or no difference at all."

Does this deter the nanny bureaucrat? Not at all-and the failure of the experiment will not stop this silly notion from becoming part of ObamaCare: "Regardless, nationwide changes are coming. The health care reform bill, passed last year,  requires fast food chains to post their nutritional information on menus.  The FDA’s rules on for this are due in March."

So there you have it-just as we predicted when Frieden and the NYC Board of Health foisted this on fast food operators. Like so many expansions of government, failure doesn't act as a deterrent-and the negative impact on businesses are simply sloughed off because the idea seems to be so good. And what it means on the local level, is not skinnier fast food customers, but fatter bureaucrats-gorging themselves on minute violations of the menu labelling law in order to further engorge the government Leviathan.