Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Calorie Counting: A Colossal Waste of Time and Money

City Room put up an unintentionally hilarious post on how teenagers ignore the calorie posting on fast food menus-but what was really funny about the post that was titled, "The Calories Are Listed, but Teenagers Don’t Care," was that teenagers are just one of almost all groups surveyed on this topic who couldn't care one whit about this inane effort to educate the unwashed.

As City Room tells us: "Researchers at New York University have found that calorie-posting in fast-food restaurants has little influence on the foods teenagers order. They found that more than half of the teenagers noticed the calorie postings. A quarter of the teenagers said they were weight-conscious, and 9 percent of the teenagers said the labeling made them buy lower-calorie foods. But when the researchers examined their receipts, they found that the actual calorie counts were the same before and after restaurants began posting calories. Teenagers typically bought food totaling about 725 calories."

But what about others less footloose and fancy free than today's teens? Not much different it seems: "A similar study released in 2009 by some of the same researchers found that 28 percent of adults said they had been influenced by calorie posting. But when the researchers checked receipts, they found that the adults had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories after restaurants began posting calorie counts. The study also looked at parents buying food for their children, and found that their calorie purchases remained the same, about 600 calories, before and after calorie posting."

This is all pretty much what we predicted four years ago when we lashed out against this effort by the Bloombergistas to regulate us all into health-an effort that was fermented over at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a rabid anti-fast food advocacy group. Also pointed out was the fact that the cockamamie calorie counting concept had never ever been subject to a single trial-making the experiment an expensive shot in the dark lacking legitimacy.

In addition, unlike the three year FDA effort to evaluate nutritional package labeling, there was no attempt by the NYC DOH to gauge what impact-if any-the calorie posting would have on the profitability of local fast food franchises. After all, compliance with these regs means that local food outlets will incur considerable extra expenses. The wacky health commissioner, however, simply never cared about this rational weighing of the efficacy of his untested idea.

As a result, we get an unmitigated regulatory failure-another example of how government enacts rules and procedures that seem like good ideas, but end up being wasteful, ineffective, and expensive for small businesses to comply with. The DOH also underestimated the ignorance of the fast food customers-assuming that posting calories would easily be understood and processed: "The vast majority of teenagers — more than 70 percent — said that taste was the most important consideration in their fast-food purchases, followed by cost. The study found that most teenagers underestimated the number of calories they were consuming, some by up to 466 calories."

So, now that we have determined that this entire regulatory scheme is a gigantic waste of time and money, can we look forward to it being rescinded? Not on your life. This has been such a successful failure that it has been incorporated right into the heart of ObamaCare-demonstrating conclusively how nothing succeeds like failure when it comes to a government program