America is an incredibly fat nation, and much of that is owed to the fact that we can’t help but cram our gaping maws with as much calorie-dense, nutritionally vacant garbage as humanly possible. In order to combat obesity, the FDA began developing guidelines in 2011 that would require food-serving businesses with more than 20 locations to post calorie information on menus. Initial legislation gave them until December 1 of 2015; now they have until December 1 of 2016. The reason?
Determining the calorie content of certain foodstuffs just ain’t that easy.
The Wall Street Journal reports that hasty legislation left a lot of room for error, and the extension was granted as congress attempts to sort out the nuances of the new regulations. For instance, the initial language would have required a place like Domino’s Pizza to provide calorie information for entire pizzas. Not particularly useful for most diners, and difficult considering Domino’s crusts and toppings can be arranged into some 34 million different combinations. Pizza places have since been allowed to display calorie content by the slice, which they say is more reasonable.
(Why, exactly, this is easier is unstated. Is it really that difficult to estimate the caloric content for an entire pizza and then divide it by eight?)
Pizza joints aren’t the only businesses feeling the strain. Grocers who sell prepared food items say it will cost on the order of $1 billion to calculate nutrition information for those items, and some may stop selling them altogether (a common business threat in the face of restrictive legislation). More importantly, there’s a question of liability – if the person making your pizza is a little heavy-handed with the cheese, who’s to blame when actual calorie content runs afoul of the number on the menu?
These concerns are all legitimate to varying degrees, but most reasonable people understand that the calories displayed for a foodstuff are meant to be a guide, not a precise measure.