I know Ed flagged it in the Greenroom but news this momentous belongs on the front page. I’m not going to lie to you, though: I’m torn. On the one hand, the fact that this is major news across the wires feels like a parody of “gesture liberalism,” the term George Will uses to describe small-ball initiatives designed more to make lefties feel good than to accomplish something meaningful. The vast majority of people ignore calorie counts on restaurant menus, when calculating the damage from a single meal is easy. Imagine how much more easily ignored they are at the supermarket, when shoppers are grabbing dozens of items to be eaten over the course of days. If you’re someone who cares about calorie counts, you’re going to find them on the label even if they’re in four-point font. Trying to solve the obesity problem by making the font bigger is like having a guy at the check-out counter with a megaphone saying, “YOU’RE NOT REALLY GOING TO EAT THAT, ARE YOU?” Meh.
But. As I’ve said many times before, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of blogging polls, it’s never to underestimate the stupidity of the low-information voter. Maybe a shiny object in the form of bigger print is just what an especially doltish consumer needs to get him to pay attention. But then, why would a dolt know offhand how many calories is too many? You could put that information on the label in big print too, I guess, but then you still need the dolt to bust out the calculator app on his smart phone to figure out how many tubs of ice cream per day he can eat before he bumps up against the 2,500 daily calorie limit. That’s my problem with the serving size adjustment described in the clip, the one potentially useful tweak to the label. It’s smart to change the serving sizes to more accurately reflect the portions Americans actually consume, but you’re still asking the customer to do some basic math and basic math just ain’t in the cards for everyone, especially amid the cacophony of the grocery store. Maybe we’re better off just drawing lines on the sides of each container. “Eat to here, then stop.” Think it’ll work?
Or, we could just follow what other countries do for cigarettes and use the labels to scare people straight. Good luck finishing that bag of Chips Ahoy while you’re staring at a pic of a pile of liposuctioned fat.