Monday, May 07, 2018

Restaurants, supermarkets, movie theaters now under the gun to list calorie counts

If calories count, then calorie counters will get a big boost Monday as one of Obamacare’s big social changes kicks in: a requirement that chain restaurants, supermarkets and movie theaters begin posting information for all of their offerings. Although some fast-food chains began posting calorie counts a decade ago to comply with a patchwork of local laws, there has never been a national requirement until now. The 2010 health care law’s mandate, which had been delayed repeatedly, is finally going into effect. Analysts say the most visible changes will occur at supermarkets that offer prepared foods at bakery sections, salad bars and hot buffets, yet have been slow to adopt calorie labeling. The Cheesecake Factory is one of the more prominent chains that will usher in changes on Monday. Nutritional information will be added to online take-out menus, and hosts at each restaurant will have a hard copy available at the front desk. Roughly 230,000 restaurants will fall under the menu labeling law nationwide, according to the National Restaurant Association. Big chains such as Starbucks and McDonald’s already are in compliance — you’ll find a 410-calorie Caffe Mocha or a 550-calorie Big Mac on those menus — but lobbyists for pizza chains and other businesses have dragged out the fight. They said the rules would be too costly and difficult to calculate for, say, a pizza with five different toppings. The Trump administration delayed the rules for another year when it came on board but kept the mandates moving forward...MORE

Check out these two gems:

Dr. Gottlieb said the rules inject transparency and competition into a free market, so they shouldn’t be seen as the long arm of the government reaching in where it shouldn’t be. “There is a place for providing a basic level of information and having a uniform playing field for the disclosure of that information,” he said. “You’re comparing apples to apples — literally. I think that’s a pro-market notion.”

The free market has notions? I knew it had laws, like that of supply and demand. But notions, defined as a "vague or imperfect conception or idea of something"? Either Gottlieb doesn't understand the market or he is purposely trying to belittle it. 

What is not clear is whether the numbers will make a difference in what consumers choose. For one thing, analysts say, many consumers don’t notice the counts, which use the same font as prices. A 2009 study of low-income, minority populations after New York City mandated calorie counts didn’t detect any change in the amount of calories purchased. In 2011, researchers examined seven studies that looked at calorie postings and found that only two of them reported a statistically significant drop in calories purchased.
We have a government mandated "notion" which will affect 230,000 restaurants and who knows how many similar retail food establishments (supermarkets, movie theaters, etc.), but will result in either no change in behavior or a negligible change.  Only the DC Deep Thinkers would endorse this.

One thing, though, is perfectly clear. Trump's FDA Commissioner has endorsed a provision of Obamacare, and is ready to enforce it.

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