Could menu labeling set a dangerous precedent?

Sometimes ignorance can be bliss … but depending on your health needs, ignorance can also be deadly. That’s part of the reason I’m torn on a bill that’s being heard today before the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

The legislation proposes posting calorie and other basic nutritional information next to each food item in a menu. Essentially, that means the next time you’re standing in line at Starbucks and eying that rainbow cookie, you’ll also see a lovely 420-calorie label posted below the price.

The bill was first introduced last year and died in committee. Health advocates say it would help people at risk for diabetes and obesity make more informed choices about their food when they eat out. Restaurants (especially fast food joints) say they already post the health information inside the restaurant. (I just have to point out that usually means, however, it’s usually near the bathrooms or somewhere you don’t notice until after you already eaten.)

I understand both sides’ point of view, but the reason I’m torn is because it’s just one more step toward people not having to think for themselves anymore. If you have health problems and should be watching your diet, why are you eating at a fast food restaurant? And if that’s what you have to do for a lot of your meals for whatever reason, I don’t get why folks can’t just grab one of the nutritional information pamphlets that are usually by the register. That’s what I do when I’m on the road and eating fast food restaurant, and it really does require minimal effort.

If it’s OK to legislate how people take responsibility for what they eat, what’s next? Enforcing a two-drink maximum per customer at bars and pubs? (And don’t tell me that’ll cut down on drunk driving because people will just bar-hop.)

Call me crazy but for better or worse, I’d rather go down the road of people screwing up but at least being responsible for their own decisions rather than being able to claim ignorance.

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