Thankfully, a federal judge has struck down a New York City rule that would have mandated that fast food restaurants list their products’ calorie counts directly on their menu boards. The rule would have impacted all chain restaurants with 10 or more locations, be they local, regional or national, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the rule was a blatant attempt to target national franchises. Feel as you may about big chain restaurants, the law was clearly discriminatory, but much more than that, yet another attempted intrusion by government into a sphere in which it has no business: what Americans eat.
Though at one time it was true that nutritional information wasn’t common in fast food restaurants, nowadays they practically put it under the cheese on your burger. It’s on bags, on the back side of tray liners, posted on walls, on web sites, and in brochures by ketchup dispensers. Yet for all that, many consumer advocacy groups (and municipal governments) don’t think the message about fast food is getting through. And of course it isn’t, but not because the information isn’t prominent enough. It’s because people don’t care. Nowadays you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that fast food isn’t good for you. It’s all over television, in newspapers and magazines, even on billboards (in the form of Subway ads). Yet all the caterwauling has done nothing to cut into Americans’ use of fast food restaurants, for the simple reason that people go to them because they want something that’s easy, cheap and tastes good. They don’t know how many calories or grams of fat or salt are in their food, and more than that they don’t want to know.
Faced with this unpleasant fact, a number of local governments around the country have decided to take matters into their own hands and try to hobble national chains with legislation. Their efforts are well-intentioned, since I think we can all agree that people in the US eat way too much fast food. Yet the methods are utterly misguided, being a completely unreasonable intrusion into both fair commerce and personal choice. Here’s hoping this ruling will pour some much needed cold water onto all the cities and townships around the country plotting similar schemes.
Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order?
Yes, I’ll have the Quarter Pounder Value Meal and a Diet Coke.
Are you aware sir, that those menu items contain a total of 790 calories?
Are you further aware that they contain a total of 39 grams of fat?
Under oath will you attest to the fact that McDonald’s Corporation and its fully licensed franchisees have completely disclosed all relevant information concerning the products you are about to purchase to you?
Thank you, please use the electronic pen to sign the release form at the bottom of the screen and pull around to the second window. Have a nice day!