Calorie Labeling: Best Part of Health Care Reform


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Okay, you've got your own favorite parts. Or you will, once you've read all 2,400 pages and 2014 rolls around. But right now I'm celebrating the long-awaited national mandate for calorie labeling on the menus of all restaurants with more than 20 locations.

This is big news, even if like seemingly everything else in the bill it will be a few years before we start to see the changes. I've written here and here about the importance of these rules, which not only provide consumers useful information they're free to ignore—and often do, as critics of the laws love to point out—but, more importantly, coerce large food manufacturers and restaurants into lowering the number of calories in their entrees, which can easily be well over half of the number of calories most people should eat in a day. This is where the blunt tool of regulation and law makes a difference—in changing the "default" option and "food environment," to use two in-vogue terms in the food-activist world, I mean as we in the nanny state like to say.

I wrote about FDA seriousness about this after our recent Food Summit, and now it's up to the FDA to decide just what guidelines it wants to propose; it has a year to formulate those, and national implementation could well take three or four years. In the meantime the separate state and city laws, as in California, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Portland, and Seattle, will roll into effect (all to be obviated once the national rule is in place, which is why the National Restaurant Association supported the one-size-fits-all mandate), and we'll watch sticker shock roll out too. It'll be really interesting to see what restaurant chains do ahead of the law—they're smart operators—and what form the FDA rules take. In the meantime, it's great news.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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