I was going to write about exercise today, but other things in the news have superseded my need to tell you that regular, moderate exercise will make you less of a homicidal maniac during menopause. No, today I want to talk about food labeling laws.
Wake up – I’m not finished yet!
Seriously, though, there are a couple of news stories lately that have got me thinking about our need for information about the food we eat, the contradicting information we actually receive, and why the government can’t just leave well enough alone and let us make our own damn decisions about things.
Unless you’re on the lam and have been hiding among the Amish, you’ve probably seen that McDonald’s is now going to offer the calorie content of every menu item in every one of their restaurants in the country. Now, before you go and start singing hosannas to the Almighty Mickey D’s, they’re merely being pro-active: this is a mandate of Obamacare, which requires restaurants with 20+ locations list calorie content information for standard menu items on menus. Total calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and total protein have to be made available in writing upon request.
It all sounds great, but like most government mandates “for the public good,” it ignores the law of unintended consequences – if nothing else, it will severely limit your choices when eating at a chain restaurant.
Besides, IT DOESN’T WORK.
Really, think about it for a minute: if you’re eating at McDonald’s, are you really worried about how many calories you’re consuming? It’s a serious question; even if you’re eating there because it’s your only choice or because it’s the most inexpensive option (both myths, by the way, and subject for future posts), are you going to spend your money on what amounts to a big pile of lettuce with a few bits of chicken or the Quarter-Pounder with Cheese value meal that is roughly 27 cents more?
NO, the solution is NOT to force McDonald’s to stop offering value meals, although I don’t doubt for a minute that will be next once the whole “calories on the menu” proves to be a dismal failure. Which it will.
The next bit of news is related to the previous, although it may not seem that way at first. Who’s heard of Prop 37? If it passes, Proposition 37 will require genetically modified foods sold in California to be labeled.
Exempt from this requirement foods that are “certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages.”
Is it just me, or does that leave a LOT of room for leeway?
But all of this confuses me. Why on earth do we need a law requiring restaurants to tell us how many calories we’re consuming when we order a battered and deep-fried onion with a mayonnaise-based dipping sauce at a restaurant, but we don’t need a law that requires the industrial food system to tell us that our ear of corn has been genetically modified to make the digestive tracts of insects explode? Do the powers that be honestly believe that anything that does that isn’t going to affect human beings in an adverse way? Really?
I’m not in favor of forcing companies to label anything; most are aware of their competitive advantages, and if consumers demand products that are free of GMOs, they’ll happily provide them. But, as Beloved pointed out, if The Gumbint is going to force useless labeling – the required nutrition labeling on processed foods has done absolutely nothing to keep people from buying utter crap, much less improve the public’s general health or prevent obesity – why not just go ahead and add a mere two letters: GM?
It all comes down to money, of course. Because it’s the government, and it’s here to help…those who contribute the most to election campaigns.