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Big Fat Brother Is Watching Your Calorie Count

Should the government be inventing laws to shame people into their healthy lifestyle choices?

by
Michele Catalano

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July 23, 2008 - 11:00 am
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If you live, work, or play in New York City, be prepared to have your unhealthy eating habits thrown in your face when you go out for a meal. Last Friday, the New York City law requiring fast-food and casual dining chains to post the caloric content of food on the menus went into full drive. While the law was official in May, as of July 18 health inspectors can now fine restaurants between $200 and $2,000 for not complying with the law. The city now joins San Francisco and Kings County, Seattle as the only two areas in the United States with such legislation, and the California Restaurant Association is trying to get the law overturned.

This isn’t like Burger King hanging a nutrition count poster on the wall. This law requires that the calorie count of every food on the menu be written in the same font and format as the food and price, right on the menu or menu board. This also goes for tagged items. A priced cupcake in a display case will now require its calories to be posted as well. What is this city, and this world, coming to? I feel almost bad for a muffin or piece of cake that has to sit in a window announcing how fat it is. Won’t someone think of the poor, victimized cupcakes?

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In some ways, I can understand why some people feel the need for such a law. For instance, many people choose salads thinking they are a healthy choice when in reality the dressings and added condiments make them often full of fat and carbs. But let’s face it, people who eat at the places this law is made for — Subway, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, TGI Friday’s — have to know that their favorite dining establishment isn’t serving up the healthiest of menu items. When you go out for food, whether it’s a quick muffin at a coffee shop or an entrée at Friday’s, there is a complicit knowledge that you may not be eating food that is good for you . Unless you are going to a place that caters to the health conscious, chances are if you are eating in a fast food or chain restaurant, you’re not looking to be a dietetic angel. Is anyone really surprised that a muffin is loaded down with calories? Well, yes. But there’s a certain willful ignorance involved in getting your meal from Dunkin’ Donuts if you think it’s going to be a healthy choice.

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