Our national fascination with obesity attracts plenty of media attention. And with more than a few politicians in search of the limelight, that means there’s a lot of legislation focused on the issue too. At home and across the globe, food cops are going after our food freedoms. In Los Angeles, city officials are working to permanently ban fast food restaurants from building new locations in certain neighborhoods. In Korea, the government is working to plaster warning labels across fast food and tasty snacks. (Yesterday’s Korea Times compared the food labels to “warnings on cigarettes.”) No one’s lunch, it seems, is safe.
This “shoot first, study the effects later” approach to health policy has already had some unintended consequences. Many of us can’t butter our bread or add cream to our coffee without feeling a twinge of guilt. But that’s not enough for health officials who want to add shame to your next order at popular restaurants. But in the online Los Angeles Times today, we’re alerting consumers to the possibility of California’s state-mandated calorie guilt trip:
With a narrow focus and built-in guilt trip, SB 1420 will only distract Californians from the bigger nutritional picture. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that it may even do more harm than good …
Luckily, Assembly Member Nicole Parra (D-Hanford) has a solution for all of this: consumer choice. She has introduced alternative legislation (AB 2572) to ensure that consumers have access to a surplus of information without having it thrust in their faces.
Parra’s bill manages to accomplish the stated goal of menu labeling advocates — making nutritional information available at restaurants — while simultaneously accounting for consumers’ individual preferences and needs. Her bill allows restaurants to provide such information in a variety of ways (such as brochures, posters, tray liners, food wrappers, electronic kiosks).
We expect our food made-to-order. The food’s nutritional information should be no different.