COUNT­ING CALO­RIES EDICT

What we re­ally need to shed are bu­reau­crats fash­ion­ing rules

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - DEN­NIS WY­ATT Ed­i­tor

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.

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