I was for policies that forced movie theaters, bars, chain restaurants, convenience stores, vending machines, and places that sell groceries to post calorie counts on menus or food that they sell.
I thought it was a great idea. I am totally the type to check calories before I choose what to eat, I try to watch my figure.
I am all for healthy food, that will help solve the gigantic problem of obesity in this country, by helping consumers stay informed.
Although, the recent push to force businesses to post the calories of all food is back firing. Here’s why:
It is almost impossible to have a changing menu, with season ingredients, freshly made in house or the day of, if you have to label the calorie count.
I’m sure you guys have seen the freshly packaged foods at Whole Foods, where chefs often use different ingredients based on what is seasonal or in stock. It is not unusual for ingredients to change regularly. The restaurant menu labeling rule would render that nearly impossible.
Therefore, now only are chain health food stores like whole foods, and large chain grocery stores being encouraged to use products mass produced that are easily labeled. But it’s putting stores that do the opposite a serious disadvantage.
Stores that do choose to reprint menus to follow the calorie count disclosure mandate, will have to pay for it, big bucks. While companies that just choose to use preservatives, frozen foods, or GMO’s that are able to be served year round won’t have extra costs from reprinting.
Stores are now encouraged to use foods with preservatives, which can be canned or frozen, in order to either easily label the food, or to keep the same meals served year round so they don’t have to keep changing the menu which costs more money.
How much money can labeling really costs stores and establishments? The Food Marketing Institute (FMI), which represents grocery stores, puts the tab at $1 billion in the first year alone. Those costs will eventually be borne by consumers.
AKA, the grocery stores will either start charging us more for food, which is already expensive enough. Especially healthy food, which as I mentioned is already harder to label because of the changing seasonal ingredients. Or, our healthy food options will be seriously diminished. Menus will become more and more stagnant, and more and more chains will use more and more preservatives and GMO’s to cover the growing costs.
I worry that we will slowly start to see our food choices minimize. This new trend of healthy, fresh food sold by larger companies like Trader Joes and Whole Foods, will become less and less, and more expensive.
So what’s my solution? I have two:
First, we cannot rely on the government when it comes to healthy food options. We need to educate ourselves and learn the basic calorie counts of foods on our own. The government barely regulates our food now. They allow us to eat not only high calorie foods, but foods that are literally poisoning us. We have to find it in ourselves to ask for more from our food producers. We have to demand organic food, by knowing which choices to make and not asking the government to make them for us.
Second, eat local. This cannot happen unless the first step of educating ourselves is accomplished. Eating a local burger isn’t going to help you lose weight. But shopping at your local farmers markets, eating at restaurants that serve healthy, organic fresh foods, will. And it will continue the trend growing of a higher demand for healthy foods, which will put pressure on the grocery stores to continue providing healthier food options, no matter the cost.
The grocery stores have been providing more healthy food options because of the growing trend in demand. I fear that the calorie count mandate is going to slowly limit our options again.