Will government intervention make you eat less junk food?

Part of the health care reform legislation that was recently signed into law includes a requirement for chain restaurants to post calorie counts on the menu boards and drive-throughs at all of their locations. Panera Bread was the first chain to post calorie counts, and while they haven’t seen a huge change in consumer choice, they do see people opting for 1/2 sandwich with soup option instead of ordering a whole sandwich, some of which contain over 1,000 calories.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

New York City was the first city to require chain restaurants to post calorie counts, back in 2008. So far, research suggests that the Big Apple’s battle against obesity has not had a huge impact. In fact, a Health Affairs study found that only half of the customers living in lower class New York City neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and diabetes even noticed the posted calorie counts.

Junk food taxes already exist in some parts of the country, and there are new initiatives to increase existing taxes or add new junk food products to the taxable list. But research on the soda tax shows that small increases in price does not impact consumption very much, certainly not enough to offer any health benefits.

Will posted calorie counts at chain restaurants impact what you order when you dine out? Will increased taxes on junk food lower your consumption of such food items? Do you think these kind of laws will have any impact on America’s obesity epidemic?

14 comments Add your comment

Chad

April 1st, 2010
6:53 pm

There’s at least one study of NYC’s law that shows these things don’t have an impact, however, I tend to think more information is a good thing so that we as consumers/diners can make informed choices. I blogged about this recently:

http://www.reconstructingthirty.com/2010/03/16/fifty-freakin-pounds-and-calorie-counts-on-menus/

Rob

April 2nd, 2010
2:57 pm

What you can eat, what you can smoke, what you can watch and listen to, what insurance you have to buy…inching closer and closer to a government run society. Why doesnt the government just turn to communism so that we have no choices at all and we eat, buy, and do exactly what the government wants us to do.

Mr. Cow

April 2nd, 2010
3:23 pm

Eat-Mor-Chikin

Derek

April 2nd, 2010
3:32 pm

Rob – this doesn’t specify what people can and can not eat. It provides more information. Perhaps if we have a better educated society people will make better food choices. There is no down side to this and Uncle Sam will not replace Ronald McDonald.

Tommy

April 2nd, 2010
3:35 pm

Rob, What Derek said. We have a right to know what’s in what we’re eating – no one is stopping you from gorging on a Hardee’s triple death bacon burger – the FDA just wants people who seem to think this is a good health choice to at least have access to the facts, even if they opt to ignore them.

You also can pretty much watch and listen to whatever you want – I don’t see there being a lot of censorship on TV, in film, or on the radio – the ‘free speech’ your pals Rush and Glenn offer up is proof of that, wouldn’t you say?

Fred

April 2nd, 2010
4:30 pm

Derek and Tommy, your “argument” is as weak as the Baptist one for prayer in school. See, they don’t want their children to pray, they want YOURS too whether you want them to or not. Same thing.

The calorie count of EVERY fast food place is easy to find. Every joint has a website and every website has a section called “Nutritional information.” If you are so worried, YOU go to the website and lok it up for YOURSELF. Don’t force the fast food places to buy new signs inside and out for every store they own because YOU are worried some fat chick doesn’t know that those super sized fries are going straight to her ass. She knows, she has seen her reflection. (or fat dude, same thing). Us fat people are fat because we WANT to be fat. When I’m on a diet I don’t head for a Super Slop burger with Monster sized fries dipped in extra grease and wash it down with a 5 gallon cup of sugar, I mean soft drink. here really is NOTHING healthy at a fast food restaurant, not even the salads. Don’t believe me? Go check any fast food places’ website and look how they glop the calories onto their salads………..

Also Tommy, where did we get this so called “right” to know what we are eating? YOU buy the crap don’t you? It’s not MY responsibility to inform YOU of the crap YOU choose to eat. Eat a dirty diaper for all I care…………….. THAT is your “right.” If you are too stupid and lazy to research the food that YOU put in YOUR body, how is that MY problem? And if i want to eat a super fat filled globular meal deal, why should I have to pay more because the company serving it has to put some stupid calorie count that if I cared about I would find out myself on every menu?

Man, I wish I had the sign concession for all these places though lol………..

banned by cindy

April 3rd, 2010
9:53 am

The NY rep tried to ban salt in food. It’s called a slippery slope you bed-wetting dependent balless sheep.

Beth Harbin

April 3rd, 2010
2:22 pm

Have you seen “Demolition Man”? In one part, the characters are eating at a restaurant and the main character (who was frozen years before and thawed recently) asks for salt. The reply . . . “No. Salt has been deemed bad for you, hence it’s illegal.” We’re getting there. Beth

anti-gov't CONSERVATIVE

April 3rd, 2010
3:52 pm

THE FACT THAT MANY ADULTs look favorably on a NANNY STATE…is frightening….More gov’t in their lives don’t bother some Americans…FRIGHTENING…..very frightening

Greg

April 5th, 2010
10:05 am

I think it is great to get these nanny state arguments out on the table for all to see. I certainly agree that the role of government in our lives is something to be concerned about. Finding the right balance certainly involves some trial and error. Let’s consider the record, though. Requiring seat belts–mistake? Requiring passports for international travel–mistake? Banning smoking from restaurants–mistake? Traffic lights–mistake? Requiring car insurance–mistake? Grades in school–mistake? Electrical standards for homes–mistake? Food inspection–mistake? License plates on cars–mistake? State licenses for medical doctors–mistake? Lemon laws–mistake? Compatibility standards for the Internet, cell phones, wireless, etc.–mistake? Near as I can understand these arguments, Haiti is seen as a conservative paradise. Give us one country out of all those on earth that we can use as a model of the ideal conservative society? Again, I am not suggesting that mistakes are never made or that vigilance is not needed, but in most cases I look back and ask why government did not act quicker. The idea that children (and adults) would go into public places filled with known cancer causing tobacco smoke…why did we live that way? Sadly, we need protection from ourselves and each other. I welcome more on the conservative view. What past regulations were grievous errors not undone? What other nation gives us even a partial sense of the vast benefits of less government? What about our day-to-day lives convinces you that we would not promptly die without proper oversight?

Josh

April 5th, 2010
12:34 pm

I’ll buy the item with the highest calories, because you get more food for your money that way!

douglasstearns

April 6th, 2010
11:50 am

the goverment needs stop begin in our lives so much!!

David S

April 6th, 2010
12:27 pm

Government subsidies and other manipulations of the agriculture market are one of the prime reasons for the lower cost of most junk food. Massive corn subsidies combined with tarrifs on imported sugar are the key reason for the replacement of natural sugar with toxic, diabetes-causing high fructose corn syrup and other refined corn products.

Government actions fixing problems they caused. Never happened, never will.

Ole Guy

April 18th, 2010
9:21 pm

One continues to marvel at the fact that mankind has somehow managed to survive without garnering so much “interest” from the government…that entity which was Our Government. When we were hungry, we ate, when thirsty, we drank. Meanwhile, OUR GOVERNMENT had the time and inclination to go about the business of governing. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?