Tribune columnist Steve Chapman hits the nail on the head when describing menu labeling as “unexamined and unfounded” (“Menu laws too much to digest,” June 22). Though nutrition activists claim that the hotly-contested ordinance would prevent consumers from gaining millions of pounds each year, they’ve never checked to see if covering menus with calorie-counts actually influences consumers to eat less. No one has.
While the justification for menu-mandates rests squarely on assumption, a growing body of evidence casts doubt on their merit. Researchers at Cornell University found that posted nutrition facts spurred people to eat 131 percent more calories than when they dined free of calorie tallies. Executive director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, Brain Wansink, even suggested that menu labeling would actually “discourage diners from trying to eat healthy.”
With an unproven measure that targets only a fraction of our food intake, how can legislators justify the imposed costs and possible unintended consequences of menu labeling? The bottom line is simple: they can’t.