Green Room

ObamaCare’s Hidden Tax on Fast Food

posted at 11:12 am on March 25, 2010 by

BurgerIf you thought the monetary pain associated with ObamaCare will be limited to increased medical costs, think again. There is language in this new law that will effectively add a tax on Big Macs, Whoppers, and other fast food.

Oh, it’s not worded as an out-and-out tax. That would be too honest for this administration and Congress. Instead, the item in question is a mandate requiring that restaurant chains with at least 20 outlets post calorie counts for all the food items they sell.

The estimated 200,000 restaurants nationwide that will be affected by this edict will entail the up-front costs of paying for nutritional analyses of their products, plus the not-inconsiderable costs of reprinting their menus and/or signage to reflect the new caloric information. Those costs will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

You may be saying to yourself that at least some good will come out of this decision. Americans will eat more healthfully, even when they eat junk food, and the costs associated with the obesity epidemic in this country will decrease. Margo G. Wootan, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, certainly thinks so. “People could cut hundreds, thousands, of calories from their diet,” she is quoted as telling the Wall Street Journal.

Yes, people could cut calories–but will they? Don’t count on it. In 2008, New York City passed a law mandating the inclusion of nutritional information on fast-food restaurant menus. A study of the effects of the new law on the eating habits of customers in poor neighborhoods was carried out by a team of researchers at New York University and Yale. Their findings? About 10 percent of respondents reported that the nutrient information made any difference at all in what they ordered.

It is possible that taxing fast food will deter regular consumers of greasy burgers and fries from eating this stuff. It is also possible that these people are so set in their ways, their fast food addictions so deeply ingrained, that they will spend their last dime on junk food and become even more of a financial burden on the new taxpayer-funded public health care sector. Lots of things are possible as a result of this mandate and other aspects of ObamaCare. The real question, however, is are they American?

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Don’t forget the costs associated with re-evaluating products as the menu changes, ingredients are added or subtracted, and of course governmental forms re-submissions.

Robert17 on March 25, 2010 at 11:35 AM

the item in question is a mandate requiring that restaurant chains with at least 20 outlets post calorie counts for all the food items they sell.

It probably requires that McDonalds do a detailed food item analysis…say about 3000 pages long… and insist that customers read the entire thing before before voting yea or nay on the Quarter pounder w/cheese.

percysunshine on March 25, 2010 at 11:37 AM

These calorie counts are already easily accessible to anyone who wants them. A quick Google search will give them to you, most diet books have them listed in an appendix, and many fast-food joints will hand you a card with all the calorie info for their offerings, if you just ask them. But most people simply don’t care, and forcing restaurants to shove the calorie info in customers’ faces isn’t going to make them care. But it makes the control-freak nanny-staters feel better, and apparently that’s all that matters now.

AZCoyote on March 25, 2010 at 11:43 AM

If you spoke the term “junk food” to our ancestors even 100 years ago, they would have laughed in your face.

There is no such thing. There is such a thing as incontinence in virtually any human activity.

Ragspierre on March 25, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Next up — all advertising by chains with more than 20 outlets has to have equal onscreen time for pre- and post-digestion versions of their products.

cthulhu on March 25, 2010 at 11:59 AM

Yeah because people who eat a Big Mac are doing it specifically for the nutrition…

This has always been a pet peeve of mine. I eat healthy and as balanced a diet as I can – at home. When I and the family go out, it is specifically as a treat – so we can indulge in fare we don’t have or wouldn’t normally prepare at home.

This is frakkin insane…

catmman on March 25, 2010 at 12:03 PM

Posting the calorie counts make the menus less readable. Drive-thru menus will show fewer choices, and the ones dropped will be the less popular ones, and probably the (presumably) healthier ones.

Also, as the incidence of Type II diabetes increases, what will matter most to its victims is not the raw calorie count but the carbohydrate content.

njcommuter on March 25, 2010 at 12:03 PM

It’s way past time to require the president and members of Congress to wear prominent signs on which are presented the amount of taxes, public spending, and debt they are responsible for.

Everywhere they go, the public should see a climbing 10- or 13/14-figure number. No reason an electronic display can’t be pinned to each one’s lapel or jacket face.

Legislators who have actually introduced bills to get rid of programs, or who have voted against elements of spending, can have flashing numbers, and the option of pressing a button and displaying an alternative number, lowered by the amount of the fiscal discipline involved, for 5 seconds.

J.E. Dyer on March 25, 2010 at 12:41 PM

J.E., I LOVE that idea! It needs to get out to as many people as possible –

What the “intellectuals” in D.C. don’t understand is that the reason that people eat fast food is because it is CHEAP and convenient. When a person only has so much income, they are going to want to get as much food as possible for their dollars.

They’d better get used to the idea that more and more people are going to be eating junk food, because if they have to purchase their own insurance, they are going to have less money to spend on “good” food.

Unintended consequences and all that….

TeresainFortWorth on March 25, 2010 at 1:38 PM

I’m in the minority of people whose behavior absolutely WILL change as a result of this. We were in NYC two summers ago; delayed flight put us in an Applebee’s for lunch. Unlike our Applebees here in the Chicago area, this one had calorie info. My God, did I change my order. Yikes.

This doesn’t mean it’s not a tax or higher costs nor that the bill isn’t an atrocity — just means the change WILL change the behavior of some people!

lizzieillinois on March 25, 2010 at 2:09 PM

Actually Calorie counts are an important part of buying fast food for people who are poor. Higher calories = better value for the poor. This will actually work out almost opposite of what they intend. When faced with two closely equally appetizing and priced choices, would you pick the one with 650 calories or the one with 1140 calories. Does Carl’s Junior $5 Burger give a better calorie for the price or the Double Whopper at Burger King? One might fill you up for 5 hours, the other 7 maybe 8, thanks for helping the poor.

astonerii on March 25, 2010 at 2:19 PM

As I’ve maintained since McDonald’s changed from using beef fat (yum) in their fryers to canola oil (blah), anyone who is at risk from the “bad” things in fast food is simply eating out at these places too often. It’s not a problem as long as it’s not a frequent thing. For crying out loud, how tough is it to brown bag a sandwich, apple, and a container of OJ?

LooseCannon on March 25, 2010 at 2:28 PM

Who cares about restaurants. I think there should be a lot more taxes on these illegal employing, tax evading, drunk driver causing hell holes.

PrezHussein on March 25, 2010 at 2:56 PM


Don’t even get me started on that angle. E-verify is in place, yet Congress won’t mandate its use. That alone would take us a long way toward solving the illegal immigrant issue.

LooseCannon on March 25, 2010 at 3:08 PM

Hey! Maybe I can smuggle bacon-cheese-burgers into the U.S. once the regime is fully set up? Something similar worked for the Kennedys, after all. Mmm. Profits.

andycanuck on March 25, 2010 at 4:29 PM

I can guarantee you that the burgers I made at home last Friday evening had more calories in them than McDonalds ever thought of. Probably did not have as much sodium though. The next thing Odammit and crew will want is the supermarkets to remove certain foods from their shelves. I know, don’t give them ideas.

On a side note, I use some cookbook software that figures nutrition information. My wife’s last physical came back as pre-diabetes 2, but it is generally controllable through diet. Knowing what foods are good and bad is great, but being able to develop and modify recipes and see how the nutrition values change is very useful. I have been able to alter a lot of recipes to make them better for us while keeping them tasty. Best $30 I spent last year. She will have another test in about 3 months so we will be able to see how well it is working.

PS: She didn’t eat a burger…doesn’t like them. She had a salad instead!

JohnTheBuilder on March 25, 2010 at 6:22 PM

Wasn’t the Center for Science in the Public Interest (my that sounds good don’t it?) founded by a bunch of left wing radicals in the 1960’s, much as the ACLU was founded by the communist party of the USA?

Dhuka on March 26, 2010 at 12:38 AM

Lots of things are possible as a result of this mandate and other aspects of ObamaCare. The real question, however, is are they American?

They don’t do this in Germany

BDU-33 on March 26, 2010 at 1:44 AM

Looking at that picture of the three story hamburger…hmmmm…would be acceptibly healthy if we got rid of the carbs; bread, cheese, and sauces. It could be three beef patties with lettuce and…wait, that would offend vegans. Can’t have that.

In the obamafuture, McDonalds will only serve pickles with mustard on them. But they will be really yummy pickles.

percysunshine on March 26, 2010 at 6:37 AM

Suggested rules for political activities for the fast food industry, or indeed, for any industry, or even any non-radical voter:

1. Never, ever, ever give campaign contributions to any Democrat. Or any organization which does.
2. Never, ever, ever (personally) vote for any Democrat.
Never, ever, ever even think about doing either of the above.
3. If ever you do 1. or 2., you will rue doing so, and will utterly deserve what will follow.
4. The three previous rules also fully apply to RINOs, who might also be fairly called Democrats in all but name.

etaoinshrdlu on March 26, 2010 at 5:34 PM

McDonald’s already has nutrition information, but they put it all on the back of the paper liner on the tray. The drive-thru customer doesn’t get it, and even the in-house customer can’t see the info until after they buy their food. But you can ask for it at the counter if you care. So the costs for them of complying with this won’t be that great. They can easily shift the information to the menu.

The cost to the mom-and-pop diner will be large. They will now have to hire a nutritionist to calculate the content of their dishes and reprint all of their menus. I expect many will simply refuse to do it. Are we going to have thousands of “nutrition police” out there busting every neighborhood diner? That will certainly get more votes for ObamaCare in November!

So once again, we have a nanny government doing something for “the people” that won’t affect big business much at all, but could prove catastrophically costly to small business.

rockmom on March 27, 2010 at 11:31 AM

rockmom writes: “Are we going to have thousands of “nutrition police” out there busting every neighborhood diner?”

Maybe they can divert some of the 16,500 new IRS employees to this task.

Howard Portnoy on March 27, 2010 at 12:21 PM