New York City health officials are claiming a minor victory for the government’s new mandates that require fast-food restaurants to post visibly recognizable calorie content signs on their popular fare. According to Jezebel, this victory only amounts to, around, one chicken McNugget less per customer. Way to go!
As America continues to struggle with obesity related illnesses and dis-eases, fast-food corporations are in a unique position, as result of a deepening recession, that will see their consumers more dependent on their high calorie treats to provide sustenance over nutritional value. Recent reports show that McDonald’s increased their second quarter profits by over 1 billion dollars, which is not surprising to anyone who pays attention to the news of the widening of wealth disparities in America between minority and white families.
Even though a groundbreaking report confirmed that supermarkets, with the calorie contents posted on all of their high-fat, cheap items, doesn’t affect the rate of obesity in “food deserts,” Dr. Lynn Silver, director of New York City’s Office of Science and Policy and co-author of the report told Reuters:
“We think, overall, these initial findings are positive…We’re optimistic, as calorie labels go national, and consumers become accustomed to using the information that chains will have a strong incentive to offer lower calorie options,” she said.
Contrary to Dr. Silver’s optimism, Americans are clearly voting with their pocketbooks, not their health–and for good reason. No one is certain what the windfall will be after the resolution of the U.S. debt ceiling talks, which is leading more people to cut back spending and look for deals anywhere they can find them, especially on internet sites like Groupon and Living Social.
McDonald’s will start offering children less french fry servings in place of apple slices to give a less appealing option to children already hooked on the salty vegetable product. Hope is the only word to describe this new policy because lots of children exposed to fast-food fare are completely addicted and will throw tantrums if their taste buds aren’t satisfied.
In the Reuters report, New York fast-food restaurants didn’t see a decrease in customers, but did witness a more savvy eater, who is rearranging his dining habit to the tune of one quarter of one small fry:
The New York city report surveyed the lunchtime crowd at 11 fast-food restaurant chains, looking at receipts for more than 7,300 people 12 months before the law took effect and for nearly 8,500 customers nine months after it was implemented.
For the three main restaurant chains studied, customers on average bought 44 fewer calories at McDonald’s, 80 fewer calories at Au Bon Pain and 59 fewer calories at KFC.
This report is depressing simply because it underlines the grips large chains have on the people’s ability to choose fairly among nutritionally dense food and their pocketbooks. Many people want to tax these large corporations and end their subsidies, but if the government does this without a substantial plan to increase subsidies to fruit and vegetable farmers and simultaneously fund health and nutrition programs throughout the educational system–from primary to medical schools–the public will undoubtedly starve, which will lead to massive unrest.