by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
I scratch my head when I hear pro big-government types express the view that more and more Americans are fat because we don’t have enough information about calories, sugar, etc. in the food we eat. Therefore, they tell us, the government should mandate that restaurants post all this information on menus, etc. Some state and local governments are buying into this argument and passing these kinds of laws as well. Well, let’s see how this is working out. Gallup can tell us:
Despite recent federal Food and Drug Administration rules mandating that U.S. restaurants post nutritional information for menu items, Americans are no more likely to peruse this type of information now than they were five years ago. Today, less than half of Americans (45%) say they pay “a great deal” (16%) or “a fair amount” (29%) of attention to nutrition details at restaurants, similar to the 43% found in 2013.
I’m not making light of obesity. Nor am I ignoring the public health and public policy implications of an overweight citizenry — particularly an aging and overweight citizenry. But we can’t force people to eat salad rather than cheeseburgers, and we can’t force people to take the stairs rather than the elevator. We should, however, engage in a rational discussion about health insurance costs and individual risk assessment.