Friday, July 07, 2006

Startling News From The FDA

I put out a brief post a couple of weeks ago about the fat police and their push to punish companies for selling us "unhealthy" foods, via that ubiquitous and time-honored coercive tool--the lawsuit. Not to be outdone in the "telling us what's good for us" department, the government is getting in the act. John Luik at TCS Daily reports on a new study from the Food and Drug Administration, which let's us know that (now prepare yourself) meals bought in restaurants contain calories, and might lead to weight gain. Luik makes a pretty good case that Americans already are very aware of their weight and how their food intake affects it. However, let us all thank the FDA for its wise use of public resources in seeking out this elusive information, since without this valuable research, we might all be left to chose for ourselves what foods we want to ingest (and possibly even whether to care about carrying around a few extra pounds if our food of choice is cheesecake.)

Now, thanks to the government's fine efforts, we can access such important gems of knowledge as, "'Away-from-home foods' are foods that are prepared and purchased away from home." I am not kidding; that's the opening line from this groundbreaking FDA report. It goes on to describe all the ways in which the government should make restaurants responsible for consumer behavior. Some of its suggestions include inducing restaurants to promote "low-calorie-dense dietary patterns, instead of more calorie intense options" (because we all know that advertising salad will make burgers repugnant to the average diner), promote "the wider inclusion in foodservice of less-calorie-dense menu items and calorie-sparing cooking techniques" (nothing like telling a free market enterprise what they are allowed to sell), and--my personal favorite--promote "portion-size, plate composition, and menu-pairing options that help consumers in their efforts to manage their energy intake." I love the notion that by telling restaurants to make portions smaller they can somehow keep American waistlines smaller--like it's never going to occur to people that they can order two of something if they want more. Although who knows, maybe the FDA has a more aggressive plan further down the road--a one per customer order, designed to protect us from ourselves. I can just imagine a lucrative black market springing up to sell illicit hamburgers to a desperately addicted populace.

Sorry if this strikes you as being a trifle too strident; it's just so ludicrous for the government to think it is any of its business to tell us what it's okay to eat, or to think that it has the influence to affect people's choices . People are going to eat what they want to eat, as long as they can afford it. Unless the FDA wants to somehow force restaurants to price their menu items beyond the reach of the average pocketbook, they are not going to change America's eating habits, and they should stop wasting money on putting out reports of such dubious merit. As Luik points out in his TCS article, the fact that food contains calories is not going to revolutionize anyone's world. We're already very well aware of that fact.