Calling Calpurnia on the Calorie Cops

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“It’s going to get a lot easier to make informed choices at New York City’s chain restaurants this spring.” Or so says Margo Wootan, one of the busybodies at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). She’s exulting over the latest fascism from the New York City Board of Health, the unelected butt-in-skis who stick their noses in our plates and tsk-tsk about what they find there. Last Tuesday, these nitwits voted to force "the city’s chain restaurants with more than 15 units nationally to list calories on menus and menu boards." Their edict takes effect March 31, ushering in nutritional nirvana: "City officials hope the rule will curb obesity by making people aware of the thousands of calories that can be packed into some of the meals."

Alas, a similar strategy hasn’t curbed Our Masters. Every day, TV and radio broadcasts make politicians aware of the misery that can be packed into some of their laws; every day, newspapers list the fall-out from failed government policies; every day, Leviathan’s lackeys foist another scheme on us to undo the last one’s harm. Yet these bozos continue to enshrine their wacko theories in legislation — just as I will continue scarfing down the 300 delicious calories in Krispy Kreme’s Chocolate Iced Custard Filled donut.

You already know politicians think you’re stupid, but you may not realize how deep their scorn goes. First, they figure that if they cloak their lust for power in concern for our health, we’ll never see through the scam. They’re simply "informing" us so we’ll make "better choices" when they order the harried proprietor of a McDonald’s franchise to post the number of calories in his food. But "Chuck Hunt, a spokesman for the New York Restaurant Association" pulls the mask off that concern. He points out that all the diet data in the world won’t "stop people from eating fattening foods…. [N]utritional information…is already required on packaged items sold in stores. u2018It’s been done in supermarkets for 13 years,’ Hunt said. u2018Has it worked? Has obesity declined?’" Nope, but freedom certainly has.

Politicians also reckon our retention is as wretched as their morals. Though "many chains, including McDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks, already provide calorie information on their Web sites or on posters or tray liners," we serfs are too dumb to recall those figures. "Health officials say customers rarely see this information before deciding what to order. The regulation would require the calorie counts to be posted as prominently as the price of each menu item."

Contrast that with the respect we receive from the entrepreneurs who sell us the food we want: “It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in nutrition, let alone a high school diploma, to tell the difference between a 12-piece bucket of chicken and a salad,” says J. Justin Wilson. He’s a senior research analyst at the "The Center for Consumer Freedom,…a nonprofit coalition of restaurants, food companies, and consumers." Many of the coalition’s members probably want to sell us their wares at lower prices; instead, they spend their profits defending their right to produce and our right to eat the food we like from a "growing cabal of u2018food cops,’ health care enforcers, militant activists, meddling bureaucrats, and violent radicals…"

Those "meddling bureaucrats" underestimate our brains but not the value of the Big Lie. Dr. Thomas Frieden, New York City’s health commissioner, tried to justify his latest foray into our business by alleging that "New Yorkers don’t have access to calorie information." That’s a whopper bigger than Burger King’s. Caloric information is available at websites and "on posters or tray liners," as the article quoting Frieden points out two paragraphs before his fib.

These liars are as free with other people’s money and time as they are with the truth. “We expect that many more cities, counties and states will require menu labeling once they see how easy it is for these chains to list calories on menus,” our gal Margo chirped. A pity the chains can’t require Margo to list the CSPI’s many factual errors.

Meanwhile, "Patricia Conboy, who was eating a hamburger at a McDonald’s in Manhattan" has more sense than all these pinheads put together. Pat says forcing restaurants to post calories counts is "a foolish idea…. People should know enough to know what’s good or bad for them to eat. I don’t eat fries, because I know they’re not good for me. I don’t need to be told that.”

That puts her one up on the Board of Health, which needs to be told a great many things, chiefly to mind its own business. People eat for reasons as individual as they are. Some focus on nutrition; some seek comfort or celebration; some grab what their budget and time allow. It’s not only rank arrogance to dictate this most personal of choices, it’s also staggeringly bad manners. Our culture has largely abandoned courtesy, and Leviathan never had any civility to begin with, but that doesn’t excuse this nosiness. If only Calpurnia could step out of To Kill a Mockingbird and scold New York’s ill-bred snoops as she did Scout: "There’s some folks who don’t eat like us, but you ain’t called on to contradict ‘em at the table when they don’t."

At least Scout was only 9 years old.

Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.

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