Joshua Green, who co-authored Henry Waxman's memories, argues that one reason for attaching calorie labels to menus is that corporations often purposefully mislead consumers about the health content of their food.
Congress considered the lack of information on most products serious enough from a public health standpoint that (led by Henry Waxman!), it passed the dull-sounding-but-important Nutrition Labeling and Dietary Supplement Act in 1996. Waxman devotes a full chapter to it in his book. Example of typically misleading industry behavior: Sara Lee Lite Cheesecake actually contained more calories per serving than Sara Lee's regular cheesecake. The "lite" was a marketing ploy. Confronted by an FDA task force, Sara Lee claimed that the "lite" referred to the color, not the caloric content, of the cheesecake.
Sounds like the curious case of the spinach and scallop salad offered by the Macaroni Grill. Faced with the prospect of a menu labeling law passing in California, the chain restaurant took preemptive action and slimmed the salad from 1,270 calories to 390 calories. The firm's CEO was cagey on what exactly was done to cut 900 calories from the plate. "The dish had more fat than was necessary," he explained.
October 14, 2009; 12:26 PM ET
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