Should restaurants be required to put calorie counts on their menus?
via AP

Should restaurants be required to put calorie counts on their menus?

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After years of delays, the Food and Drug Administration will finally implement an Obama-era policy that will require restaurants with more than 20 locations to label calorie counts on their menus. Health advocates have long argued for calorie counts on menus, claiming they are both good for public health and good for business. But others argue the evidence that calorie counts sway people's food choices is slim, and we don't need the government telling us how to eat. What do you think? 🍔🍟

THE VOTES ARE IN!
#YesCalorieCount
64.4%
#NoCalorieCount
35.6%

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., argues labeling calorie count not only improves people's health, it also helps business competition. 

“It’s pro competition,” [Gottlieb] said, “because restaurants are going to probably reformulate their foods in ways to make them more healthful. Certain consumers are going to want low-calorie options. You know some consumers are still going to opt for the high calorie option — but they’ll know what they’re getting.”

People have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies, and giving them the necessary information allows them to make the best choices. Nobody is forcing people to eat healthily, the FDA is simply giving people the opportunity to take calorie count into consideration when they order a meal. 

People become obese in the first place by eating 64 calories incrementally per day, Gottlieb added — so if you can reduce caloric intake by this amount, you are “a long way toward reducing the caloric intake enough to actually affect obesity rates in this country.”

According to the American Institue for Cancer Research, Americans eat "one third of all our calories away from home," so doesn't it make sense to have a better sense of what one third of our diet actually contains? The U.S. has a huge obesity problem, and while labeling calories on menus won't eliminate obesity, it certainly won't hurt.

But others argue the evidence that calorie counts on menus sway people's choices is virtually nonexistent. 

A joint NYU/Yale study published in the journal Health Affairs examined 1,100 customers at four fast-food restaurants in poor neighborhoods in New York City (where obesity rates are high) and found that only half the customers noticed the prominently posted calorie counts. Of those, only 28 percent said the information had influenced their ordering; nine out of ten of those said they had made healthier choices as a result. But upon inspection of their receipts, researchers found that these same customers who said they made healthier choices actually ordered items that were higher in calories.

Forcing businesses to label calories on their menus is just another example of unnecessary regulation looking for a problem. Pizza chains in particular argue they will be hit especially hard by the Obama-era policy given the many toppings delivery menus must consider.

If it hasn't been definitively proven that labeling calories on menus actually improves public health, business shouldn't be forced to comply for the sake of making people feel good. We are a free country, and people should be able to eat whatever they want regardless of calorie count.

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