Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Calorie Counts

New York passed this law recently to require certain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menu boards.  While I am completely in favor of giving people information, there were a number of reasons I thought this law was illogical:
1.  Selective application.  It only applied if you were already putting the information out there and if people could already get it.  Only those restaurants for which I could already find information were required to do this.  It's like a penalty for disclosure.  What about all the unhealthy places where I couldn't find the information I wanted about nutrition?  If people really wanted to know what was in their food, they can already look it up - either at home OR at the place itself.  It's just giving you information you can already get, but putting a burden on that selective group of establishments.
2.  Focus solely on calories.  There is a lot more to nutritional information that a calorie count can't cover.  What is wrong with the boards on the wall that give you a better picture of what you're eating?
3.  Illogical for places like Chipotle and Subway.  How is a calorie count on a menu board going to actually differentiate between the person who orders a burrito with rice, beans, chicken and lettuce and the person who orders a burrito with rice, beans, chicken, lettuce, 4 scoops of sour cream and 2 handfuls of cheese?  It can't.  Or between the worker who likes to put 2 scoops of sour cream vs. the worker who likes to put a half a scoop?  It doesn't make any sense to require this of places like this, with literally hundreds of variations.
Apparently the requirement got pushed back for the menu boards because of the restaurant challenges.  Can't say I blame them.  60 Minutes did a piece awhile back about how silly this was to try to do and the number of variations you'd have to put up on menu boards to even start to provide an accurate picture.
But apparently Chipotle has already switched their boards.  And as an example of how silly this is, please tell me what added value you get by knowing that your burrito has between 430-930 calories.  Seriously.  How is that going to impact your food choice?

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