Menu Labeling: Not The Cat’s Meow

Just two days ago, the food cops at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) a new study published in this month’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association, which indicates that mandatory menu labeling, a policy CSPI would use to create pretexts for even more lawsuits, may not be very effective at informing eating habits. The University of Vermont study found that “44% to 57% of the combined sample [i.e., consumers surveyed] self-reported that they would not likely use restaurant food caloric information.”

Perhaps more importantly, the study reemphasized an important fact about menu labeling: “Consistent with previous research, these results may indicate that those that have a less nutritious diet are less likely to use food labels and have less interest in doing so.” The food police understand this reality, as revealed when their “chief,” Michael Jacobson, told TIME that “too many people will look past the calorie, fat, carb and fiber counts on the menu.” Nevertheless, Jacobson’s Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) advocates mandatory menu labeling at every occasion.

But leading the horse to water is only the “first step,” as described by top food cop Sen. Tom Harkin, who reintroduced another menu labeling bill just last week. Knowing full well that restaurants can’t force their customers to change their minds about what to eat (no matter how well labeled the menu is), groups like CSPI are all too willing to file lawsuits anyway. KFC, a company that already provides nutrition information for its recipes, is nonetheless a target of CSPI’s trigger-happy litigation squad.

Besides, based on CSPI’s current the-sky-is-falling rhetoric over obesity rates, it doesn’t seem like the nutrition labels on packaged foods (that CSPI pushed for) have done much to inform the American public. As then-Food and Drug Administration chief Lester Crawford said in 2004: “What we did in making nutrition labeling mandatory did not help obesity. In fact, some people would say it hurt.

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