Pick your poison

By Kathryn Mayer


In the health care industry, we love complaining about two things: Obamacare and obesity.

So it was only a matter of time until these two things collided. One of Obamacare’s provisions — a lesser-known one — requires most restaurants to post calorie and other nutrition information about their food. The idea behind the rule is simple: It’s meant to help consumers make healthier eating choices and discourage obesity, an issue that’s plaguing our country.

Despite its simplicity, backlash has been swift and hard.

Too far, some cry. Too much government interference. And, of course, too hard.

Some lawmakers complain the nutrition rule “creates painful new expenses for certain businesses, including delivery joints and eateries that specialize in made-to-order dishes.”

“Specifically, the proposed rule limits the ability of businesses to determine for themselves how best to provide nutritional information to customers,” lawmakers wrote in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “As a result, the proposal harms both those non-restaurants that were not intended to be captured by the menu labeling law as well as those restaurants that have flexibility and variability in the foods they offer.”

For the most part, I’m all for letting businesses determine how best to make decisions for themselves. But this is different.

As a nation, we complain constantly about our obesity epidemic. We say it needs to change — and it does. And it starts — and ends — with personal responsibility and lifestyle choices. And guess what? That involves food decisions. And it sure as hell helps to know what kind of food you’re eating.

Look, we can’t complain over one epidemic, but then kick and scream over a possible treatment. In this circumstance, do we choose complaining about obesity or do we choose complaining about Obamacare?

The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act already mandates labels on most foods we buy at the grocery store. And I value that. And I pay attention to them. (Well, mostly I do. I don’t need to look at the nutrition label on ice cream — that’s good for you, right?)

It’s only natural restaurants follow suit (albeit decades later).

If places like McDonald’s are embracing the idea — and saying it’s a good one — then I think others should follow suit.

And similarly, if a restaurant doesn’t want to tell me what I’m about to eat — or worse yet, that it’s too complicated to tell me — then I don’t think I want to eat there.

On another note, it’s nearly time for us to reveal the results of our annual Benefits Selling/Oliver Wyman health care survey. And we'll be talking about in a webinar next Thursday. Sign up here.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com