- - Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I had to laugh a little at the timing of the latest regulatory announcement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Last week, the FDA approved a little-known regulation of Obamacare that will force restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores – and most other businesses that serve fresh food – to add calorie count labels to many of their products.

The goal? FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg told reporters that it is an attempt to curb obesity. She said labeled menus will provide for more informed decisions by consumers.

This is where the ironic timing comes in. In the same week, we “consumers” celebrated a holiday where the most sought-after tradition is to eat massive amounts of turkey, slathered in butter and covered in gravy made from the fat drippings of said turkey. And to top it all off, one of our side dishes is often sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows (kudos to whoever thought that one up).

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Even though I knew pretty much everything I ate at Thanksgiving – leave maybe the asparagus – was bad for me, I still ate it. Knowing the high caloric intake did not stop me from getting a second piece of pie after dinner.

I also exercise on a fairly regular basis, though, to burn off those calories and ultimately live a healthier life. Plus, I don’t eat Thanksgiving dinner every day.

Having calorie counts next to my food is not going to change my habits. It is just going to add extra costs to my purchase. This is simply another attempt by government to grow a little larger at the expense of small-business owners and our economy.

The new regulation will require any business that has 20 or more locations and offers food that is meant for eating on the premise or take-out to label the calories in those items. The regulations go into effect in one year.

This will impact countless restaurants, but also gas stations and grocery stores that have increasingly offered ready-to-eat options.

I travel around Wisconsin quite a bit, and I can’t tell you the number of times I have stopped at a local Kwik Trip gas station to grab a deli sandwich or slice of pizza. Their food is fresh and convenient – and it tastes good.

But this new government-mandated regulation will force businesses to pay for additional signage and labeling, essentially driving up costs. For gas stations and grocery stores especially, it will also add an extra step to offering fresh food items.

Estimates for costs to the grocery industry alone sit at $1 billion in just the first year. Industry representatives claim the regulations may even lead to fewer fresh-food options at grocery stores. Instead of going through the work to label all 20 dressings at the salad bar, along with the different types of cheese, croutons and meats, it might just be easier to not offer a salad bar at all.

Even if this regulation weren’t going to add costs for many small businesses, it is still a bad idea. Our country was founded on the idea of personal responsibility. How much more intervention from the government do we really need?

Instead of relying on government to make every decision for us, we need make informed decisions on our own. The government cannot and should not be allowed to step in every time we exceed 2,000 calories in a day.

Yes, obesity is a problem in America. But it is not because consumers are unaware that two Big Macs, a large fry and an eggnog shake at lunch is not a healthy choice. Trust me, we are all aware.

So, instead of trying to regulate companies out of business, the government just needs to let Americans take responsibility for their actions.

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