A couple of weeks ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended, among other big-brother intrusions into our diets, that governments institute “strong nutritional standards” and ensure foods that meet them “are available in all places frequented by the public.” With the formerly hypothetical “broccoli mandate” now firmly endorsed by the nation’s social engineers, who could be surprised that a study has been published arguing that “A whopping 96% of main entrees sold at top U.S. chain eateries exceed daily limits for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

The study is silent on whether or not these sinful dishes in the hands of angry food police actually hurt anybody’s health. The authors’ only goal is to gauge compliance with arbitrary standards devised by federal bureaucracies. Of course, if their study offers notorious dietary scold and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention boss Thomas Frieden an opportunity to engage in his favorite pastime — poking into restaurant kitchens with his regulatory pen — they’d probably see that as (low-salt) gravy.

So, were these “96%” dishes 2,000-calorie behemoths with pounds of bacon stacked high alongside plates of home fries? For the most part, no. The authors took the total daily allowance for salt, calories, fat, and saturated fat and divided by three, as if people ate three identical meals per day. So a person could easily eat one of these entrées and have no problem coming under their total calorie allowance if they ate less at their other meals or compensated with exercise. That is, of course, exactly what a study by economists from UC Berkeley and Northwestern found that people do.

For now, the IOM report recommendation doesn’t come with the force of law backed up by trial lawyers with subpoenas. However, if the case of the “voluntary” advertising guidelines is any indication, “voluntary” dietary guidelines could become regulations if not enough diners and restaurants “volunteer.”