The United State if officially the world’s fattest nation. More than a third of American adults are obese, with 40% of children as well. The Southern states with their love of fired fatty foods lead the nation in obesity. While 1/3 Americans overall is obese, this statistic is nor mirrored in every state where the state obesity level is often lower than the national average. It is the Southern states like Mississippi – where 1/3 is actually obese – that raise the national average.
Nonetheless, in Mississippi or elsewhere Americans are fat. And governments have started to undertake measures that are intended to trim or at least nor overgrow further waistlines. While governments have their justifications that go beyond altruism to just do good – obese people cost government-programs Medicare and Medicaid billions in dollars – and if people were healthier tax payers would have to shell out less in medical billions. Although initiatives dedicated to the reduction of government spending are all good with me, I oppose most government regulation in this field on grounds of libertarian principle. The government was not right to mandate what oil McDonalds can use as New York state now does. As far as I am concerned, the state should not be paying for anyone’s health care anyhow let alone forcing tax payers to carry the burden of people who make unhealthy lifestyle choices.
But there is one idea that I support that may make people healthier. I do so not on the grounds of making an exception for my libertarianism, but by keeping with the principle that public information of traded goods should always be broadened.
On July 1st California followed the path of Oregon, Maine and Massachusetts [and 11 other counties and cities] in enforcing calorie labeling law on chain restaurants [operating more than 20 branches].
This will force the likes of McDonalds and Starbucks to start publicly listing the calories of their products in broad visibility right on the menu. Until now, McDonalds, for instance, only offered calorie information on a poster against a wall next to the restroom that most customers never saw. That will change in California.
The effort is to make people more aware of what they eat and thus organize their meals in a more healthy manner. Americans are fat but, paradoxically, they are health conscience. The problem is that they often underestimate the calories they put in. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the average American underestimated calorie count by 600 [the daily intake for a man should be 2,000 and 1,800 for a woman].
Not only would this make people more likely to go for a healthier option, but fast-food joints would have an added incentive to produce those healthier meals in order to keep clients. Something they started doing anyway. After all, no place wants to advertise a 700 calorie burger.
This is all reasonable – the people have the right to – and it probably will produce a healthier America in time. And in time this calorie enforcement may become national.
Senator Teddy Kennedy is trying to do just that in Obama’s health care reform bill. But while that bill may never pass, something like calorie counting is exactly the type of easy-to-pass and then to brag about laws that politicians love.