If you are one of the millions of people who visit a quick serve food establishment every day, you most likely have noticed calorie counts on the menu boards. Whether it is at Starbucks or McDonald’s, the calorie counts started to appear in New York, California and other locations around the country. As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Yes, Obamacare) the FDA was also given the power to mandate calorie labeling across the nation in any food establishment with over 20 branches, where at least 50% of the floor space is dedicated to selling food.
But while your Whopper at BK will be labeled 670 calories, a hot dog sold at Seven Eleven has yet to be labeled. That’s because convenience stores and supermarket delis view themselves differently that fast food joints. And to make sure the FDA won’t come after them, these corporations have lobbied lawmakers to help them out.
The Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2012, a bipartisan effort, is trying to limit the FDA regulations from reaching convenience stores, supermarkets, and movie theatres. Representatives of the National Grocers Association explain that the proposed labeling requirements would subject retailers “to millions of dollars in new and unnecessary expenses and administrative burdens because of regulatory overreach.” A supermarket may sell thousands of ready to eat items, whereas a fast food joint sells only a few.
According to NACS – the association for convenience and fuel retailing – “Convenience stores and their food offerings vary greatly, based largely on their location and customer base” and so it would not be practical to require calorie labeling.
But Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who is thinking about consumers first, disagrees:
“Efforts to keep consumers in the dark are unnecessary and out of touch – according to a recent survey, more than 70% of Americans favor having movie theaters, convenience stores, and supermarkets list calorie counts for their prepared foods.”
Our take: Given the rise in obesity levels in the US, and the clear connection between excess calories and weight gain, it’s a no brainer that consumers should be informed just how many calories are in everything they consume. A calorie doesn’t care if it came from Kwikee Mart while you were fueling your Mazda, or from Taco Bell on the way home from basketball practice. Of course the retailers will oppose it, because it will cause some people to buy less. At the end of the day, it’s all about money.
What do you think? Is this a good move or just another example of a Nanny State?