First Calorie Counts, Next Local Food Labels?
This essay on the Huffington Post sees calorie count mandates as the beginning of a “food revolution”:
[T]his could be seen as a historical turning point in the American consciousness about actually having awareness about where food comes from and what goes into how it gets made.
Most advocates for calorie count mandates emphasize the effect they could have on the population’s health. They say that if people read caloric data whenever they order food, they’ll make healthier choices and put less of a strain on the health care system.
The Huffington Post essay is unusual in that it connects calorie counts to the local food movement. At first glance, this seems puzzling, because a calorie count tells you nothing about where your food comes from. Furthermore, a dish that was served up from scratch in your home town might be high in calories, while produce flown in from hundreds of miles away could contain fewer calories. Supposing consumers pay attention to the calorie counts and consequently reduce the calories they consume — there’s evidence that they don’t, but supposing they do — the effect could be to discourage some people from eating local food. For example, think of people who live next to a cattle farm and have access to local hamburgers, but can’t buy vegetables unless they’re shipped in.
However, the Huffington Post writer may be on to something. Once people are comfortable with calorie counts on the menu board of every major chain restaurant, they’ll be less likely to object new national labeling mandates. They’ll take it for granted that the federal government tells restaurants what to write on menus. Proposals to label food as “local” or “organic” will then meet with less opposition.