The Food and Drug Administration’s announcement last week that it will require calorie counts on food at movie theaters, pizza parlors and at chain restaurants, in vending machines and on some packaged foods caught many people by surprise.
Doubtless among the most surprised were those in the food industry, who didn’t expect the label requirements to be so extensive. And it’s anticipated that some in that industry will fight the rules as onerous before they go into effect a year from now.
But Americans who take their health, and the health of their fellow citizens, seriously should hope that the rules go into effect and are strongly enforced. Obesity is a serious health problem in this country, including among children, and that must change or health issues such as diabetes are going to become all the more widespread and costly.
Many people will be stunned to find out how many calories are in a fast-food sandwich, much less in an ice cream sundae. Without having the information where we can see it, most of us don’t think about the calories we’re consuming, particularly if we’re ordering something that seems fairly modest. A Big Mac, for example, has 550 calories. (An adult male’s calorie requirement varies from 2,000 to 3,000 a day.)
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Fast food tends to be cheaper, and so many kids are vulnerable to after-school temptations. And some parents, unfortunately, assume sweets and carbohydrates are something children can burn off. Having the calorie counts at hand should lead to important family conversations about nutrition.
In too many cases, bad eating habits last a lifetime, and that lifetime is liable to be shorter if the habits don’t change.
The FDA is going to get some blowback from the food industry, which will say that the rules are overbearing. But if this is overbearing, we need more of it. Any steps that make Americans healthier and more aware of the importance of their diets in prolonging their lives and keeping down health costs should be welcomed.