Some New York City restaurants were busted recently by a local TV station for posting incorrect calorie counts of some of their menu items. The city was among the first to implement the requirement for restaurants to post calorie counts. Several states — Massachusetts, Oregon and West Virginia among others — are either debating the idea or have legislation pending.
Most proponents of the legislation say posting the calorie counts will help fight obesity in their state. I fail to see the direct connection here. Sure, more information is generally better when it comes to what's in our food. But, most chains already publish calorie counts on their websites, and general information about food calories and portion sizes is readily available from numerous sources.
A person struggling with obesity most likely will not refrain from purchasing that McDonald's Big Mac simply because the calorie content is on a poster in the restaurant. Instead, that poster has become a nit-picky struggle for restaurant operators because posters don't vary, but food, particularly bakery products, do…as they should.
Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts were the New York restaurants that came under recent scrutiny. According to the WCBS-TV report, Starbuck's blueberry muffin was labeled at 420 calories, but had 580; its peach-apple tart was labeled 120 calories, but had 280; and its pumpkin scone was listed at 500 calories, but had 539. Dunkin' Donuts' turkey, cheddar and bacon flat bread sandwich was found to have 460 calories instead of the 360 calories listed.
Enough is enough already. Sure these are large national chains that your business may or may not relate to. But, who supplies bakery products to many chains and independent restaurants dealing with these calorie counts? Many of you do. Too bad the focus here isn't on the quality of the bakery products. Good bakery products innately vary. In fact, the highest quality, and arguably most healthful bakery products, are more like snowflakes…no two cookies look alike. Adjusting for sameness usually requires adding mechanization and ingredients that can handle the automation.
I have nothing against bakery automation or improving consistency in bakery products, but when calorie counts become the ultimate goal, other important factors in a great bakery product get sidelined. I also realize obesity is an epidemic in this country. But, this is a case where legislation is clearly disconnected from its own ultimate goal of fighting the problem.