Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Care for a Side of Guilt with That BLT?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Care for a Side of Guilt with That BLT?

Article excerpt

The Food and Drug Administration is working on regulations to label calories on menus. The regulations may appear innocuous, but they're nothing more than the government ordering us an unwanted, piping-hot side of guilt with every meal, and then sending us the tab.

You're starving. You've slaved through lunch and dinner, and all you can think about is picking up something at Denny's - specifically from its "Baconalia" menu. Bacon meatloaf, the BBBLT sandwich, even the maple-bacon ice cream sundae sounds good.

But as you stare at the glossy menu, the nutritional information grimaces back with a look of disapproval and shame. Does it change your mind? Of course not - it's not as if you thought the triple bacon sampler was going to make its way onto "The Biggest Loser" anytime soon. But it is enough to put a damper on your enjoyment of the meal.

So why will this information soon be broadcast directly to your seat at the table? Is it that restaurants want to warn diners of health hazards that lie ahead? Certainly not - many restaurants have such information readily available on their websites for those calorie-conscious consumers who want it. Is it that you asked for it? Even if you didn't, many chains have nutritional brochures close at hand in case you do. Denny's, in fact, already has both.

The reason is that the federal government - one with mounting deficits, the longest active war in US history, and near-government shutdowns - has seen fit to enact a law requiring restaurants with more than 20 locations to rub your face in nutritional stats.

The Food and Drug Administration hopes to finalize proposed regulations by the end of this year, taking effect perhaps by next summer - maybe later if restaurants get the delay they seek.

Nevermind that such regulations, when implemented at the state and local level, have all but failed. Take New York City - a pioneer of menu-labeling back in 2008. Although about a quarter of fast- food patrons told researchers the information helped them make healthier choices, a comparison of their receipts with those of cus- tomers in New Jersey - where menus aren't labeled - found that New York customers had in fact ordered food with slightly more calories. …

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