A. Barton Hinkle, a Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist and Reason magazine contributor, wrote a fascinating and chilling column this week about the Food and Drug Administration expensive and burdensome new menu labeling scheme.
The regulations will “dictate the disclosure of calorie counts for foods sold in restaurants, grocery stores, delis, bakeries, coffee shops, and even gas stations,” according to Hinkle. And those businesses will pay a hefty price to comply with the policy. The federal government figures the rules will “cost more than $1 billion and require more than 14.5 million hours of labor to meet.”
The calorie posting regulations, which are expected to go into effect any day, have been debated for three years. Why? Because it’s confusing as hell to try to figure out how to force business owners to post the calorie count for custom made food orders.
Consider, for example, pizza: The legislative director for Domino’s says ‘there are 34 million pizza combinations. We’ve done the math.’ Listing the calorie content for each possible variation would require a very large sign indeed.
Yet only one Domino’s customer out of 10 visits a Domino’s location. The rest order over the phone or online. So shouldn’t posting the caloric content on the company website suffice? It should, but it will not: The FDA’s proposed standards require actual signs, at every location.
While the regulations are bad news for big companies like Domino’s, at least they can make the calculations once and send those numbers to every location in their chain. It’s the small mom and pop pizza and sub shops, diners and other restaurants that face the worst burden. After all, small businesses don’t have the technology, money or time available to figure out the number of calories contained in a sandwich or a stew with hundreds of possible ingredient combinations.
The goal of these ridiculous federal calorie count regulations (which are actually a tax on businesses’ time and money) is, of course, to encourage people to consume fewer calories.
But menu labelling fails to reduce calorie intake. “Putting calorie labels on menus really has little or no effect on people’s ordering behavior at all,” according to Julie Downs of Carnegie Mellon who co-authored a study published last week in the American Journal of Public Health. “No matter how much calorie information is on the menu list, people still choose the food they like, not what’s supposed to be healthier.”
So, to recap, the government will soon hand down regulations that will be impossible to fully meet, will cost businesses considerable amounts of time and money, and will do nothing at all to benefit Americans.
Perfect. Just what this country needs.