COUNTING CALORIES EDICT
What we really need to shed are bureaucrats fashioning rules
In my day I could polish off an entire extra-large combo pizza — sausage and pepperoni — in nothing flat. Call it youth. Call it ignorance. Call it an eating disorder. Call it whatever you want. You could have posted under the menu board that eating the pizza would cause my arms to fall off in two days let alone what the calorie count was and I’d order it and eat it any way.
Fast forward more than a few decades. I’ve been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for 31 years. I am well aware of calories and every other scientific way that food is assessed from the good and bad fats to the salt and every vitamin under the sun. I weigh half of what I did back when I could have given Joey Chestnut a run for the money and I will still order an extra-large milkshake or a medium Blizzard without even giving the calories listed on them under the menu board a second thought.
I’d argue that I’m healthier than what the federal standards are today for a 61-year-old male whether it is blood pressure, resting heart rate, cholesterol levels, body mass ratio or whatever this week’s $1 million taxpayer funded study says.
Back in 2010 one of the wonderful provisions in the Affordable Care Act that few, if any, congressial members that voted for it noticed at the time involved requiring chain restaurants to post calories on their menus. They are supposed to go into effect in 2018. The Food and Drug Administration just released guidance for the calorie rule that are about as vague as you can get.
After eight years and who knows how many bureaucratic staff hours and millions of dollars, the best the government can come up with for items like pizza is to post the calorie range for each topping.
The only problem is even math wizards have a hard time figuring out the number of possible combinations when you take 39 toppings, various cheeses and crust types, intensity use of each topping, and the size of the pizza pie.
The educated folks put the number of combo possibilities in excess of a million. It’s about as unprecise as you can get.
So what good will have 39 ingredients listed with a wide calorie range based on how many of each item is used plus ranges for crusts, sizes, and cheese going to do to better educate consumers who want what they want?
This is all being done under the wild assumption that if you educate people they will make healthier choices. Pardon me for pointing this out but once you step foot into a pizza place or most fast food restaurants you’ve already made a choice and I assure you no one in their right mind is going to argue it’s the healthiest option.
I’d venture to guess they’ve been a couple dozen FDA workers and contracted government researchers tackling Operation Count Calories for the past eight years costing taxpayers the equivalent of the gross national product of a Third World Country.
The release of the foggy FDA guidance on positing calories on menus came out the same week as a study that shows all the money being plowed into high-tech gadgets to get people to make healthier choices whether it is to remember to take their medication, eat better, or exercise is a colossal waste of money. Researchers found that they rarely change the habits of those that purchase them whether they are Baby Boomers taking on more salt than on the flats of Bonneville or obese millennials with a worn out Domino’s app.
The bottom line of the tech gadget research is that it is superfluous fluff in the quest for better health.
The same can be said of calorie counts on menus.
That’s not saying either one wouldn’t be used by somebody really committed to making changes in their health, fitness, and/or lifestyle. But then again someone that is really committed doesn’t need to know that eating a gallon of Nestle’s Drumstick Sundae Cone has the most calories of any ice cream Dreyer’s produces. I know that and I still manage to down an entire half gallon of it in one sitting at least twice a month.
Not only is it a waste of tax dollars to development such a mandate and a waste of private sector dollars to implement it, but it practically yells hypocrisy.
There are 15,000 FDA employees who, by definition, should know better when it comes to calories, heath, and obesity. How many of them do you think adhere to the recommended federal standards agency employees make a nice living from creating?
If the people who should be the biggest advocates of complying with such advice don’t, why should they expect anyone else will just because the government decreed it was important and spent millions to put guidelines in place?
Maybe the FDA can follow the IRS’ lead and mull over that question at a taxpayer funded retreat in Las Vegas. And while they’re there they can order in a couple hundred of Domino’s pizzas with Dreyer’s ice cream for dessert.
Americans need to shed excess dead weight, no doubt about it. The calorie rule for menu boards won’t accomplish that. What will are pink slips to perhaps 10 percent of the FDA staff.