Tales of the Red Tape #5: Calorie Counts Forced Down Our Throats

COMMENTARY Government Regulation

Tales of the Red Tape #5: Calorie Counts Forced Down Our Throats

Apr 6th, 2011 1 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Diane Katz

Senior Research Fellow in Regulatory Policy

Diane Katz, who has analyzed and written on public policy issues for more than two decades, is a research fellow in regulatory policy.

You’re too fat, and vending machines are to blame. The government says so and is doing something about it.

To temper the snack food cravings we are supposedly incapable of controlling, Congress is forcing vendors to post the calorie counts of vending machine items. Thus, we’ll supposedly pick the healthier brand of potato chips, cookies, candy, and soft drinks.

According to the designated enforcer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the new regulation will add 14 million hours of extra work each year to vending machine operations.

The FDA openly admits that there’s no demand for such labels: “Consumers may ignore future costs of overeating, relative to the current gains from eating, even when they understand the connection. Therefore, consumers do not generally demand calorie and other nutrition information for food away from home. … Given the costs and the uncertain reception for calorie information that many consumers appear not to care about, most vending machine operators have chosen not to display calorie information.”

Well, duh!

The most irritating part about the whole deal? Information about caloric content does not change consumer behavior, researchers report. And yet the FDA has the gall to call the absence of calorie labeling on vending machines a “market failure.”

Let’s summarize. Consumers don’t want calorie information about vending machine snacks, so vendors haven’t provided it. Consequently, government decides that both consumers and vendors must be forced into it.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal