Putting a calorie count on all menus, a measure the NYTimes supports, is one of the dumbest ideas yet. Yes, it may actually decrease obesity, but I really don’t care. The measure does not address the real problems behind obesity, namely the inclusion of sugar or toxic artificial sweeteners in nearly all foods. It will give pause to people, but it’s yet another affectation of the nanny government.
I am not obese, but in Starbucks this weekend I had to stare down at a calorie count next to every item in the display case, and seeing “440 calories” written next to a chocolate chip cookie is the reason I did not buy that cookie.
Sure, when it comes to junk food, calorie counts could be helpful, but what’s next? Will we apply that information to every item on the menu? Some foods that are high in fat and calories are actually very filling and, in the long run, good for us. A focus on calories over nutritional density is the wrong focus and will increase the already mighty proliferation of low-calorie foods rich only in chemicals, salt and air.
The rules, recently upheld in Federal Court, “will give people information they need where they need it,” said New York City health commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. “If you want to use it, great, and if you don’t, that’s entirely your right.”
But it’s not up to me whether I have to see the numbers. It wasn’t up to me at Starbucks. I had those numbers shoved right in my face. And those numbers hold associations that may or may not be fair. Certainly, a cookie is just eggs, milk and sugar — mostly empty calories — but other high-calorie foods won’t deserve the negative implication that their calorie count suggests.
If we’re going to give information to consumers, I think we have to give them ALL the information — at least you can make an argument for that. But taken ad absurdem, this “give them information” argument means we should have pictures of babies on condoms (might break!), and vehicular death statistics printed on the outsides of cars (how about exact mortality stats based on car models), and of course cigarette packs should have pictures of cancerous patients or blackened lungs as they do in Canada.
Reasonable people know what they should or should not eat. That’s not the problem. The Farm Bill and its inherent conflicts (corn subsidies, for instance) are the problem.