Calorie counts in US chains need time to counter norms

Calories you can count on
Calories you can count on

From the volume of globular beings plodding across aisles in Walmart to an increasingly explicit trove of accessible web junk, obesity – judging from my recent visit – is clearly the order of the day in today’s US. Yet while keeping updated on the latest “feature creatures” at People of Walmart keeps me cracking up just long enough to temporarily forgot the horrible implications these extremes have on our health care system and overseas identity, I have to wonder what is being done to decrease the dramatically expanding waistlines and population of divergent anatomy.

The answer didn’t come at once; it did come, however, just where I should have expected it would be. Whenever I’m abroad, I tend to crave cheap, fattening Tex-Mex – so naturally, as soon as time permitted, I headed straight for a Taco Bell. My last sojourn was no different. But this time, upon my long-awaited return to “the Bell,” I noticed that a calorie count had been added below each item in large, clear font (see picture).

The law making it mandatory to display calorie counts was officially enacted in 2008, but didn’t hold any universal footing until last year (California was the first state to implement it). Now, according to a bill Obama signed in March of 2010, any restaurant in America with over 20 branches (which apparently constitutes a chain) has to list the amount of calories in each order, hopefully making Americans think twice about indulging in a half-a-days’ worth of calories during a single sitting. Pervasive use of the calorie count wasn’t felt, according to some friends of mine, in New York until this past summer, but critics are already cropping up to cite outlier anecdotes about how the measure isn’t working. Subliminal coercion has a proven track record. Analysts would be wise to wait for the guilt to seep into those who have to confront their heavy diet choices on a daily basis.

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