New York Calorie Labels Going into Effect

MSNBC has an interesting piece on New York’s new food-labelling law. New York is the first city in the country to require restaurants to put the calorie content of foods on the menu. But not all restaurants will be covered by the mandate. No, only restaurants with more than 15 locations in the country will be covered. So Wagamama, the European titan noodle chain with only a couple of US locations, would not be covered if the company opened a New York branch.

Many chain restaurants already post nutritional information on their websites – and some even in their stores. Customers can easily find out what that Bacon Beef ‘n Cheddar Sandwich from Arby’s packs. But some don’t want to. The MSNBC article quotes many customers unhappy with having such knowledge in front of their faces. They’d rather be blissfully ignorant and content to enjoy their Cinnamon Dolce Frappuccinos without visions of themselves ballooning to whale-like sizes.

This aversion to getting nutritional information may push some customers out of the chain restaurants and into smaller establishments, where the food is often as unhealthy, if not more so. If you’re uncomfortable knowing that your Meat Lovers Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut has 890 calories, half of which are from fat, you may be tempted to down a couple of slices at Famous Original Authentic Ray’s across the street and ingest the same amount of artery-clogging dough, meat, and cheese.

Perhaps that’s partially the point. Maybe the calorie-labelling mandate is really a disguised anti-chain-restaurant initiative. I would not be surprised to learn of a Bootleggers and Baptists coalition between health paternalists and small restaurant owners.

I’m cooking at home for a friend tonight. And I’m not posting the calorie count.