Double Chin and the Demise of a Double Standard

     I ate at McDonald’s yesterday for the first time in months, and discovered that on the bottom of the burger boxes there lurks the nutritional information for what I just consumed. Nevermind that the information ruined my ability to enjoy the food, it was nice to see some basic numbers that go hand in hand with the food I was consuming.
     So, for example, a Big ‘N Tasty has 460 calories, 24 grams of fat, and 24 grams of protein. A quarter pounder has 510 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 29 grams of protein. Both have obscene amounts of sodium; you get half of your daily intake of sodium (1190 milligrams) with a quarter pounder.
     Most fast food “restaurants” have provided this information for years. I worked, briefly, at a McDonald’s in high school back in 1994 and remember even then the big board of nutritional information posted in the dining area. Apparently sometime since then, at least in Florida, McDonald’s started putting the info directly on the food containers (the fries were particularly troubling, since they taste so good and I’ve seen “Supersize Me”).
     Finally, the federal government has passed a law requiring chain restaurants to provide this information.
     Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act will require restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to provide nutritional information for its menu items. And here I was, just beginning to really get into the swing of the double standard on this topic.
     Once the law goes into effect, you will know that the Texas cheese fries with jalapeno ranch dressing at Chili’s clocks in at a whopping 1,920 calories, or that a plain bacon cheeseburger at Applebee’s has 37 grams of fat.
     For years the chain restaurant industry has resisted having to disclose such information to their customers, for good reason. I have a sneaking suspicion that sales of the Smoothie King’s “The Hulk” will plummet when customers realize it has 2,088 calories, or that Outback executives will chart a precipitous fall in blooming onion sales once customers notice it comes, gratis, with a side order of approximately 2,210 calories and 134 grams of fat.
     The reason chain restaurants opposed this is obvious. The industry hid behind claims that since most of the restaurants were at least regional, it couldn’t guarantee that the nutritional information provided would be the same from store to store. Which is a funny line of thinking, considering you can get the exact same dish at an Outback in Seattle and one in Miami and have it taste exactly the same. It’s the whole concept behind chains.
     Not only that, but you can give approximations. My McDonald’s box has a disclaimer that the actual numbers may vary. It’s not like the blooming onion at an Outback in Las Vegas is going to have 2,210 calories, while the same dish in Omaha is going to have 800 calories. All we need is range.
     Double standards are great, because usually the hypocrisy is so obvious it’s laughable (for example, marijuana is illegal yet alcohol, which is physically addictive and can and does kill people, is not only legal but its consumption is celebrated). It’s a tad unfortunate the double standard is ending here, but in the long run it’s nice to see the government actually make an industry opposed to something take action in the interest of the public.
     Clearly the chain restaurant industry needs new lobbyists. What kind of a government is it if it can’t be bought? I’m beginning to have my doubts about this country.

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