By Maggie Thurber | for Ohio Watchdog
By now, I probably shouldn’t be surprised at the arrogance of our federal government, but just when I think it can’t get any worse, it does.
The latest are the new Food and Drug Administration regulations, required under the Affordable Care Act, which dictate the calorie counts for all food in a vending machine must be posted on the machine where we can see it before we buy anything.
The rule is costly.
Based on the FDA’s own estimates, it’s probably going to cost Ohio vending companies an extra $2.2 million a year to follow it. Nationally, the FDA estimates it will cost $25.8 million to initially implement with annual costs of $24 million. And they actually think the vending companies will absorb those costs and not pass them along to you.
The rule is redundant.
The calorie counts, along with a host of other nutritional — I use that term lightly — information, already are on the packaging.
But according to the FDA, we don’t pay attention to the calorie counts, and we eat things that are bad for us and regret it later.
If only we knew ahead of time and actually appreciated the impact that food might have on our waist, we’d make better decisions and walk away from the Cheetos that are begging us to buy.
It’s as if the government thinks we don’t already know that a bag of chips or a candy bar — or those really disgusting-but-oh-so-satisfying-frosting-coated cinnamon rolls — aren’t good for us.
Aye, and there’s the rub. We don’t do what bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C., think we should.
That means, according to the FDA, the market has failed.
Yes, when consumers don’t want something and companies aren’t forcing it on us, that’s a market failure.
Funny, but I thought that meant the market was actually succeeding.
Not according to the FDA, which arrogantly thinks it can correct this market failure.
“Although many of the usual market failures that justify regulatory action … do not apply here, the primary support for regulatory intervention is that there are systematic biases in how consumers process information and weigh current benefits (from consuming higher calorie foods) against future costs (higher probability of obesity and its comorbidities). The bias is more directly related to the requirements of this proposed rule: Consumer demand for calorie information does not create incentives for the provision of calorie information at the vending machine. This market failure occurs because at the time of purchase, consumers do not value calorie information as much as they do later, when the effects of excess calorie consumption are evident.”
We don’t want to know how much that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is going to impact our experience with the weight scale the next morning, and we’re OK with eating it today.
That’s because we’re biased in how we act and government must counter us.
“…(S)tudies suggest that calorie information often lacks salience, or relevance, for consumers at the time of purchase and consumption, even though they may experience regret about their decisions at a later date. This tendency may explain why consumers have not generally demanded calorie and other nutrition information for food sold from vending machines before, or at, the point of purchase, even if they may, at a later point in time, value that information.”
Look at us! We are so terrible.
Thankfully, the government is going to step in. They’re going to make that calorie information so obvious we can’t possibly ignore it. Then we’ll happily do what they want and forgo the barbecued kettle chips.
You’d think that was bad enough — until you read further and find out they don’t know if it will work.
According to the FDA, obesity is a problem and since many Americans get food and snacks from vending machines, putting calorie information on the machines will result in a “significant effect on calorie intake, the prevalence of obesity, and thus the cost of health care and lost productivity.”
But there’s a problem with that theory.
“The proposed requirements mitigate the apparent market failure in information provision stemming from present-biased preferences, although not necessarily the tendency of consumers to underutilize that information.”
The FDA admits it “lacks data on how consumers will substitute among caloric sources.”
That means the administration has no idea if you’ll see the calorie signs and go without your afternoon Snickers only to pig out on gelato after dinner to make up for it.
The FDA admits it doesn’t know if posting calorie counts will reduce obesity. It didn’t test its theory to see if posting the calories will actually cause people to choose differently. Plus, officials point out, only 5 percent of money spent outside the home goes to food in vending machines.
This isn’t the market — you — deciding what you want. This is nanny-state government deciding you’re not making the right decisions about the food you eat and imposing costly regulations with the hope maybe you’ll make their choice for you instead.
And what if you don’t? What if you continue to eat chips and candy from a vending machine? What regulation will they come up with next?
But hey, if the bureaucratic elitists can save just one person from becoming obese, isn’t it worth it?