Yet another Obamacare disaster

Thomas Lifson
We had to pass Obamacare to find out what's in it, and it's not pretty. It turns out that in the thousand-plus pages that nobody read before passage is an onerous requirement for restaurants to post the caloric content of the dishes they offer. The problem is that it is so poorly drafted that compliance and enforcement are difficult, and despite the costs imposed on restaurants (and passed on to their customers), there is zero evidence that the measure has any positive impact on curbing obesity, the ostensible purpose of the costly regulations.

Avik Roy in Forbes:

The calorie label clause, buried deep within the ACA's 10,000 pages, seems harmless enough at first glance. Each restaurant chain with over 20 locations is required to display the calorie content of each food and drink item it serves on signs and printed menus-with vending machine distributors subjected to the same rules. But the regulation also covers "similar retail food establishments," a clause vague enough to give FDA regulators sweeping power to determine who does and doesn't have to comply.

Who is "similar"? Your guess is as good as mine, but neither matters as much as the whims of the FDA bureaucrat who gets to come in and impose fines.

And gosh-by-golly, it turns out this stuff is a little more complicated that the regulators figured:

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg admitted that she "actually thought [calorie labeling] would be one of the more straightforward tasks...but little did I know how complicated it would be." 

Yep, it gets really, really complicated when you have it your way:

Pizzas, sandwiches, and burritos, among other common fast-food meals, can be custom-ordered in hundreds of combinations, and the law arguably requires restaurants to provide customers with calorie data for each. It's also unclear whether non-traditional food retailers-for example, bookstore cafes, hotel minibars, and food trucks-will be subject to the labeling requirements. Furthermore, it's unclear what penalties restaurateurs will face if they inadvertently fail to comply.

Food service, from pushcarts and trucks to sit down restaurants, is one of the great spheres of entrepreneurship in the American economy. But creating this kind of uncertainty is a huge barrier to entry for businesses. It isn't cheap to hire a lab to do calorie testing, and woe to the outlet that finds customers want more pickles and less mayonnaise (or vice versa), because you have to go back and get more tests.

And it is all in vain:

This mess of red tape might have a better case if calorie labeling was effective in combating obesity and raising general nutrition awareness, but multiple studies have found that this simply isn't the case. A study of mostly low-income adults in Philadelphia, which recently enacted its own calorie labeling mandate, found that the regulation had no effect whatsoever on fast-food consumption, and that two-thirds of McDonald's customers didn't even notice the labels. The same research team, led by an NYU Medical School professor, found similar results in New York City. Now, the federal government expects different results nationwide.

Another reason to repeal Obamacare, an expensive, badly designed, and ineffective bill that is doing more harm than good.

We had to pass Obamacare to find out what's in it, and it's not pretty. It turns out that in the thousand-plus pages that nobody read before passage is an onerous requirement for restaurants to post the caloric content of the dishes they offer. The problem is that it is so poorly drafted that compliance and enforcement are difficult, and despite the costs imposed on restaurants (and passed on to their customers), there is zero evidence that the measure has any positive impact on curbing obesity, the ostensible purpose of the costly regulations.

Avik Roy in Forbes:

The calorie label clause, buried deep within the ACA's 10,000 pages, seems harmless enough at first glance. Each restaurant chain with over 20 locations is required to display the calorie content of each food and drink item it serves on signs and printed menus-with vending machine distributors subjected to the same rules. But the regulation also covers "similar retail food establishments," a clause vague enough to give FDA regulators sweeping power to determine who does and doesn't have to comply.

Who is "similar"? Your guess is as good as mine, but neither matters as much as the whims of the FDA bureaucrat who gets to come in and impose fines.

And gosh-by-golly, it turns out this stuff is a little more complicated that the regulators figured:

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg admitted that she "actually thought [calorie labeling] would be one of the more straightforward tasks...but little did I know how complicated it would be." 

Yep, it gets really, really complicated when you have it your way:

Pizzas, sandwiches, and burritos, among other common fast-food meals, can be custom-ordered in hundreds of combinations, and the law arguably requires restaurants to provide customers with calorie data for each. It's also unclear whether non-traditional food retailers-for example, bookstore cafes, hotel minibars, and food trucks-will be subject to the labeling requirements. Furthermore, it's unclear what penalties restaurateurs will face if they inadvertently fail to comply.

Food service, from pushcarts and trucks to sit down restaurants, is one of the great spheres of entrepreneurship in the American economy. But creating this kind of uncertainty is a huge barrier to entry for businesses. It isn't cheap to hire a lab to do calorie testing, and woe to the outlet that finds customers want more pickles and less mayonnaise (or vice versa), because you have to go back and get more tests.

And it is all in vain:

This mess of red tape might have a better case if calorie labeling was effective in combating obesity and raising general nutrition awareness, but multiple studies have found that this simply isn't the case. A study of mostly low-income adults in Philadelphia, which recently enacted its own calorie labeling mandate, found that the regulation had no effect whatsoever on fast-food consumption, and that two-thirds of McDonald's customers didn't even notice the labels. The same research team, led by an NYU Medical School professor, found similar results in New York City. Now, the federal government expects different results nationwide.

Another reason to repeal Obamacare, an expensive, badly designed, and ineffective bill that is doing more harm than good.