Soon, when you go to your favorite pizza chain for a slice or ice cream store for a couple of scoops, you’ll find that the menus are a lot busier (and perhaps more confusing). The Food & Drug Administration will announce regulations on the calorie counts for every item on menus at pizza shops, ice cream stores, gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and vending machines. This is as a result of provisions in Obamacare.
As we reported earlier this year, the un-Affordabe Care Act introduces new reporting and regulatory burdens on the food and entertainment industry. It mandates that calorie labels be posted at vending machines, restaurants, and similar retail food establishments to help consumers make healthier choices and discourage obesity. That’s a noble cause, but the added burdens and costs are projected to be in the billions.
Entertainment places that offer food and beverages such as movie theaters, sport stadiums, amusement parks, bowling alleys, and golf courses will also be affected by the new rules. Food is not the main attraction at any of these entertainment purveyors but they have food offerings from nachos and cheese to soft-serve ice cream.
The challenge for these businesses will be implementation and on-going compliance. The regulations will require replacing menu boards or adding those that don’t already exist. And what about those who regularly update their menus to reflect new food offerings as their competitive advantage? They will have to figure out how many calories are in servings of the items they offer.
The Hill reports:
The rules would apply to the prepared foods sold by chain restaurants and stores that have 20 or more locations. They go into effect in one year for these stores, and two years for vending machines.
Public health groups like the menu labeling requirements…
But the food industry expressed mixed reactions to the menu labeling requirements.
The National Restaurant Association, which pushed for the rules to be included as a requirement of ObamaCare, said it is satisfied with how the regulation turned out.
But most other business groups say they are extremely disappointed with how the rules turned out.
Pizza restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores all wailed against the menu labeling requirements.
Rob Rosado, director of government relations at the Food Marketing Institute, said it could cost the grocery industry $1 billion to comply in the first year. This, he reasons, will lead many stores to stop selling fresh cut fruits and vegetables.
Gas stations and convenience stores like 7-Eleven would be required to list the calories of hot dogs they sell from the grill, as well as slushies and other frozen drinks.
Restaurants and bars will also be required to list the calories in alcoholic beverages they sell. This was requirement was lifted from the proposed rule, but added back in after popular demand, Hamburg said.
While I appreciate seeing the caloric count for the fast food meals I consume, this one-size-fits-all approach from Washington doesn’t account for the nuances and special circumstances that different places serving food face. For example, when grocers make a sandwich or cups of fruits, they will be sucked into compliance. And as noted, some cafes change their menus on a regular basis to offer new items daily, based upon the costs of ingredients available to them. Imagine the difficulty of trying to calculate the calories in each new item every day. We have to wonder whether chefs and cooks will cut back on their experimentation leading to fewer choices for consumers.
Experts in Washington and academia (like ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber) perpetuate the fallacy that they know best what’s good for us and they get lawmakers to cede them authority over our lives. These calorie regulations are just one example of how broad, sweeping laws such as ObamaCare introduce costly, new regulations on business which end up making our lives worse by expanding the reach and power of government over our lives, our choices, and freedom.