Calories? What calories?

five_guys_burger_closeup.jpgBack in August the Albany County legislature passed a law that requires chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus. The legislation is based on a similar measure in New York City. The aim of both laws: help people make healthier choices.

Here's the thing -- the early indication is that the NYC law isn't working. A paper out today from the journal Health Affairs reports that New York City's law didn't appear to have an effect on the choices people made. From the abstract:

We examined the influence of menu calorie labels on fast food choices in the wake of New York City's labeling mandate. Receipts and survey responses were collected from 1,156 adults at fast-food restaurants in low-income, minority New York communities. These were compared to a sample in Newark, New Jersey, a city that had not introduced menu labeling. We found that 27.7 percent who saw calorie labeling in New York said the information influenced their choices. However, we did not detect a change in calories purchased after the introduction of calorie labeling.

As the abstract indicates, the study only looked at low-income communities -- and health advocates are already responding that the law might have more effect where people aren't as price sensitive.

Albany County's calorie count law takes effect early next year.

Comments

I look forward to the studies that will show those bans on trans fats were pointless, other than to remove the deliciousness from my donuts.

You know, sometimes the teabaggers have it right. The calorie count, trans-fat nonsense they were right about.

I hate it when the broken clock is on time.

I'm not ready to admit defeat and declare "gastric-bypass for all" because of one bizarre study. I didn't know what an acceptable calorie range was, or how to gauge food, until I was 20 years old and someone at Weight Watchers explained it to me. I'm not joking. If we were taught how to do that in school, I was absent that day. Or perhaps the pizza-and-fries school lunch was a stronger message.

What's the point of having calories on the menu if people aren't sure of the basics?

Return to trans-fats?
Never!

You can pry my real-butter-and-lard doughnuts from my cold, dead, pudgy fingers.

@Sandor - you said it! It tastes so much better with REAL ingredients. Sure, they're not great for you, either, but nothing is good for you if you have too much of it ... and that goes for trans fat as well (I just think it tastes plastic and gross, personally).

I think, though, these bans and calorie counts don't give people enough credit. When you go and eat at McDonald's, you KNOW your choices are unhealthy. And, besides, just because something is low in calories doesn't mean it's necessarily healthy, anyway. There are ways to get well made, inexpensive food (helllloooooo, Shalimar buffet!); people are instead choosing McDonald's, et. al. You and I may not agree with their choices, but at the same time, it's pretty nanny-state to have a finger-wagging party with the calorie counts.

@irisira

I'm having a hard time understanding what's "nanny-state" about providing people with more information, whether they choose to use it or not. Since when is more information a bad thing?

As for the trans-fat ban, do you guys understand the consequences trans-fats have on the body? If you did, I don't think you'd have a problem with the ban. It's like getting upset because big brother wants to take poison out of your coffee.

Giving people enough credit? Health researches predict that (if left unchecked) 86% of Americans will be overweight or obese by the year 2030. So, I really don't think we can give the public the benefit of the doubt on this one.

It is always baffling to me when people come down on the side of less information being made available instead of more. Nutrition and calorie info should be there for the people who choose to use it, the same as it would be on a product label on a store shelf.

A ban is inherently different from a label in that one increases the consumer's ability to make an informed decision, and the other takes the decision away from the consumer entirely.

Label away.

Banning trans-fats takes away peoples ability to choose? I don't understand the logic behind that argument. How many people are intentionally choosing foods specifically for their trans-fatty value? Chances are, you wouldn't even notice if they were gone. Like in the case of McDonalds who switched their oil in order to make their fries trans-fat free. I haven't heard any of their customers complaining.

Should we not ban lead paint either? Should developing brain damage be a choice left up to the individual?

Banning things removes a person's ability to choose the banned thing by making it unavailable. That is the logic behind my argument. Can you deny that this is so?

Argue all you want as to why the banned item shouldn't be available, but arguing that bans don't limit choice is folly.

Logically, yes, bans by their nature take away someones choice. But this is just semantics and is distracting from the actual point I'm making. Which is that nobody is actively "choosing" trans-fats, nobody notices when they're gone, and right now they're killing us. So why be against this particular ban? You may call it big brother. I call it common sense.

@Mrs M

well said! thank you for presenting my argument so well and with actual statistics.

I think the semantics do matter, they are at the core of why I view the ban as nanny-state but not the labeling. Our society certainly hasn't outlawed everything that is killing us, why junk-food ingredients? Simply because there wasn't enough of a Crisco lobby?

French fries don't become a health food just because the oil they are fried in is trans-fat-free.

Here's where we agree. The government shouldn't try to take away everything that kills us. However, look at the larger picture in this case. If we do nothing, in a few decades 100% of Americans will be overweight or obese. I'm not making these projections up. What invested interest do we all have in making sure this doesn't happen (aside from just compassion)? Well, first of all, it will completely break our health-care system with the cornucopia of diet-related illnesses (the highest of which comes from trans-fat consumption). And from a practical standpoint, who's going to inspect the sewers if nobody can fit down a man hole? True, you can't tell people to stop eating junk. But if you take out the trans-fat in their junk, it will at least give them (and all of us) a head start.

When the issue affects everyone, like global warming or future of country, people shouldn't be given a choice. That's where I stand.

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