Last week, I wrote on NRO that menu labels just don’t work. Several studies have now shown that people do not make better food decisions when informed of the calories they are about to consume. Perhaps that’s because people seem to understand that fast food has bunches of calories; perhaps that’s because people make the “what kind of meal am I going to have…healthy or not-so-healthy?” decision before they enter the restaurant. I’m reading these studies as are many others. But some are clearly ignoring the studies.
The folks over at the Center for Science in the Public Interest are among those ignoring the latest findings on food labeling. In the CSPI’s latest push, they are trying to get meat producers to put nutrition information on meat packages. The press release states:
How many calories in that cereal? How much sodium in that soup? For nearly two
decades, Nutrition Facts labels have answered those questions…except in the one
section of the supermarket where you might need them the most.
In the fresh meat and poultry case, you’re pretty much on your own.
On your own? Oh, the horror! You see, to the food nannies at the CSPI, being on your own when making food decisions is tantamount to torture. No one should be on their own, making their own decisions; living with the consequences of those decisions.
But, the CSPI does note that the meat manufacturers are doing some good. The press release goes on to note some exceptions to the no label rule:
Most ground meat and poultry has Nutrition Facts (along with deceptive lean claims). And a few companies put Nutrition Facts on brand-name meats or poultry voluntarily. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a disappointing solution. Supermarkets would have to provide Nutrition Facts on all fresh meat and poultry, but not necessarily on labels, where shoppers need them. Instead, stores could put up a poster or offer a brochure, notebook, leaflet, or whatever. Thanks so much.
In fact, many stores already have those posters. But odds are, you haven’t noticed
them. In some cases they’re above or on the sides of the meat case. And even if your vision were sharp enough to read the fine print, the cuts on the posters don’t always match what the store is selling. So good luck with that.
So, according to the CSPI, offering this information on a poster or providing leaflets or brochures isn’t enough. One must have the information on each and every package. But that won’t satisfy the CSPI. When that type of labeling fails to bring down obesity rates and quell Americans penchant for fatty meat, the CSPI will insist on larger labels, labels that talk, labels that actually shock you when you pick up the package, labels that are able to read your BMI measurement and advise you to pick another item.
Perhaps the CSPI will finally be satisfied when we’ve all had chips implanted in our brains that prevent us from eating what we want.
CSPI’s real enemy isn’t the meat manufacturers or food marketers. Their real enemy is free will and Americans discomfort with being told what to do.