The Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposal that would require restaurants to place the nutritional facts of their food items on the menus. The FDA hopes that if this proposal is passed, it will aid in the fight against the nationwide obesity epidemic. According to the Kansas City Star, the restaurant industry makes about $425 billion a year. That being said, it is apparent that the consumers are visiting restaurants regardless of the presence or absence of labels. So one must ask whether government regulation is necessary at this point.
Allison Whitesides, director of legislative affairs for The National Restaurant Association, told the Star, “We’re very much opposed to mandatory labeling. …We can’t stick a label on a plate of pasta.”
Whitesides raises a valid point; many restaurants change their menus on a regular basis, some daily. Asking restaurants to reprint their menus on a regular basis would not be cost efficient.
The Star also reports that the most recent proposal would require chains consisting of 20 or more restaurants to label their menus. While franchise and chain restaurants are popular, there are other restaurants that are also visited. It is unfair to assume that large franchise chains are solely responsible for the obesity issue.
According to foodpsychology.com, almost half of the money spent on food is spent in restaurants or on fast food. There are restaurants that have attempted to conform to the consumer’s desire for healthier foods. For example, Subway has placed some nutritional values of specific sandwiches on napkins and cups.
However, Brian Wansink, professor of nutritional science and marketing at the University of Illinois and the man responsible for foodpsychology.com, told the Star that when food is placed in front of people, they are going to eat it.
Wansink oversaw a study in which researchers polled customers after they had eaten at Subway. Apparently, the customers would read the nutritional information on a vegetable sub and would proceed to order the one with meatballs regardless of the available information.
If consumers are going to eat whatever they want -whether they are aware of the food’s fat content- it is apparent that it does not make much difference.
Restaurants have been responding with healthier food options, but if the government wants to intervene, it should do so in an informative manner by educating consumers. Rather than having to count calories and fat content, consumers would then know intuitively how good or bad a certain menu item is for them.