Menu Labeling: A Matter Of Freedom

Today the popular online magazine Slate rightly identified mandatory menu labeling as “the latest salvo in a war that local governments are fighting against Americans’ diets,” also noting a few other dietary casualties of bureaucratic overreach (foie gras, a French cooking technique called “sous-vide,” trans fats, etc.). After reviewing all of the “facts*on this diet-by-guilt approach to public health, the article concluded with a critical point:
Lost in the debate over Big Macs and cheesecake has been any serious consideration of whether government agencies ought to be responsible for influencing how many calories we eat
This is a question all too familiar to many people in Britain.  
This week, Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn protested the latest maneuver by “condiment Nazis” in local governments: confiscation of salt shakers with more than five holes. This forcible repossession is part of lawmakers’ lofty plan to “save lives” through salt reduction. Littlejohn sees it differently, describing the move as officials “finding new ruses to interfere in our lives and inventing exciting schemes for monitoring, regulating, taxing, fining, punishing and spying on us.”
Here’s the bottom line: Individuals are capable of making their own decisions about health, risk, and even the number of holes in their condiment dispensers. Along those lines, we also should be able to freely choose whether or not we want glaring calorie reminders of everything we eat, from our morning coffee to a steak dinner.
* Adding to the ever-growing list of fiction passed off as fact, Kelly Brownell, grandfather of the Twinkie tax, added his voice (and little else) to Slate’s menu labeling debate, claiming that Americans “eat about half their calories outside the home.” Baloney! According to the most recent federal government data, the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals, Americans consume 66 percent of our calories at home. Only eight percent come from restaurants and 12 percent from “fast food.” Even a person with mediocre math skills can tell that’s not “about half.”

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