American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation

NYC Health Department Gestapo Cracks Down on Calories

Posted by Eric Hazard | 5 Comments

CaloriesThe NYC Health Department is putting its jackboot on the throat of NYC restaurant owners: post calorie counts or face a fine. According to the New York Times, the clipboard and food thermometer wielding health department Gestapo is wasting no time slapping restaurateurs with violations. “City health inspectors began issuing violation notices on Monday to restaurants that did not have calorie counts posted beside the prices on their menu boards.”

American Madness has previously expressed our disapproval of the mandate to post calorie counts on NYC restaurant menus. Chief among the initial concerns was the libertarian notion that the government should have little to no interference of what I choose to put in my body.

Another dissenting view was that calorie counts alone do little (if any) good in determining the health of a particular food item. The concern is the potential for the development of eating disorders as people seek to avoid calories at the expense of nutrition.

Third, was the Byzantine system of compliance and display which would need to be concocted in order to properly disclose “calorie counts.” One day into enforcement, and already our prognostication has been proven right as we are seeing “violations” being issued because calorie counts are improperly displayed. That is because the proper displaying of calorie counts is up to the individual health inspector. The New York Times cites one miserable bureaucratic health inspector named Corey Williams, who was citation happy in issuing calorie-count violation notices to three restaurants yesterday. One unfortunate target of Williams’ unhappiness with life was the Dunkin’ Donuts at 445 Park Avenue South. He said flat out there was no gray area, “[t]his is pass-fail,” according to the New York Times article. And guess what didn’t count as a “pass” in Williams’ book:

Some were already there, though not in a form that was acceptable to Mr. Williams. A small sign on the counter said “80 calories or less in a small.” It also said, “Order sugar substitute & skim milk for lots of flavor, and no fat.” Another sign advertising a 99-cent special on coffee with an egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich said the coffee had 25 calories and the sandwich, 280. The sign urged customers to add hash browns for another 99 cents. Doing so would add 180 calories, according to the sign.

If the above example is not adequate compliance, they how the hell is Dunkin’ Donuts supposed to account for calorie counts at all? Depending on the day of the week, the lighting in the store, the individual health inspector or the customer’s order; Dunkin’ Donuts could be considered in violation of proper calorie counting.

Guess what folks, this is going to cost restaurants A LOT of money to ensure compliance. And when they aren’t in compliance it will cost A LOT of money to pay out fines because the Corey Williams of the world hate their life and wish to inflict misery on others. And in the low margin business Dunkin’ Donuts operates, do you think they are simply going to internalize those costs? HA! Those costs are coming right back to you, the consumer.

And what about the time health inspectors will be wasting inspecting line items on menu boards? Wouldn’t their time be better spent making sure rat shit is being kept out of my soufflé? What has the more immediate health impact on the city, not properly listing the calories in a cup of black coffee, or a cockroach infestation?

Welcome to our brave new world.


5 Responses to “NYC Health Department Gestapo Cracks Down on Calories”

  1. Josh Friedlander
    May 6th, 2008 @

    Perhaps, but I like rat in my soufflé.

  2. John Galt
    May 6th, 2008 @

    The newest proposal, which I heard from an “Informed Source,” is the distribution of meters which measure the muscle to fat ratio of diners before they are allowed to eat. I don’t know exactly what the parameters of the system are, but when my source went to eat at MacDonalds yesterday he was tested and allowed to eat a small salad without dressing in styrofoam container and a cup of water. Will this be the future?

  3. Midas Mulligan
    May 6th, 2008 @

    In my new society there are no calorie counts.

  4. Jason
    May 6th, 2008 @

    This problem of violations being left to the whimsy of the inspector seems to be a bureaucratic problem across the board. My mother is a licensed New York State Childcare Provider and subject to inspections. She was recently assigned a new representative who cited her for several violations which were not violations according to her old representative.

    But the difference in her line of work is that she doesn’t receive a fine, nor is there any punitive action taken right away. She is given time to correct the violation (although the public website lists that she has violations, but I think fails to note exactly what they are).

  5. Sam
    May 6th, 2008 @

    Yes, but people are getting fatter and something needs to be done. We have an obesity epidemic in this country. I don’t care if McDonald’s is fined. They should be run out of business for all the pain they have inflicted on this country. We have scarred our children and our grandchildren with the incurable wound of obesity, all in the name of convenience.

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