Government nannyism may soon be going nationwide. One version of the health care overhaul moving through Congress would require fast food restaurants to list calorie counts next to items on their menus. The justification for this is that if people have more information about the contents of their food, they’ll make healthier choices. I oppose this measure for several reasons.
First, the justification has already been proven false. Mandatory calorie counts on menus went into effect in New York City last year. The results: people ate the same number of calories. Since the law utterly fails to achieve its own stated goals, why bring it nationwide?
Second, calorie counts on menus may decrease, not increase, the amount of accurate information that customers have about the calories in their food. A calorie count is only one number, yet the amount of calories in a food can vary for a number of reasons. No matter how hard restaurants try, they can’t make serving sizes absolutely uniform. The calorie count also depends on how much condiments and other things get added, and so forth.
Third, even if calorie counts were accurate, they wouldn’t necessarily lead to healthier choices. A customer may have a general impression that a certain burger has 1,000 calories and avoid it for that reason. But if he sees it listed on the menu as 800 calories, he might be willing to eat it, even though it’s still massively unhealthy.
Fourth, sometimes I just want to indulge in food that tastes good without worrying about its health contents. This law prevents me from doing so by rubbing in my face the information about guilty pleasure meals.