Background Information: Obesity is a disease attacking at the core of this country. In 2003, the National Institutes of Health estimated 44 million American adults, approximately 64 percent of the adult population, are considered medically obese and that number has only increased since then8. This self-inflicted disease has contributed to as many as 300,000 deaths annually due to its causing many chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and elevated levels of blood cholesterol (see Appendix II, Figure II), making this the number two cause of death behind smoking according to former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop1. Even with all this statistics, many believe that obesity is a private issue and what we consume should not be a government issue. However, with Americans spending $117 billion annually to treat obesity-related health problems (an average of $420 per person), it becomes an issue for the public to debate. Policy Problem: Would requiring all food service locations to publicly post or display calorie counts on menus for all food items served be a cost effective and successful method of decreasing obesity and the diseases caused by obesity in the state of New Avery? Analysts Problem: Determine the causes of obesity and the effectiveness of calorie labeling at changing consumer’s eating habits. Analyze results from calorie labeling in other states, in addition to actions undertaken by the federal government. Look into substitutes to calorie labeling. Identify likely expanders and contractors of this policy. Recognize and weigh externalities, offsetting behaviors, and additional problems related to implementing calorie labeling. Investigate the costs and benefits of implementing this policy. Offer a recommendation in regard to implementing this policy on calorie labeling in the state of New Avery. Background Information:
Legislative history: As of now, a little less than half of the states in the United States have taken steps toward their own laws requiring food labeling (See Appendix I for a state-by-state summary). The general consensus was to require chain food service establishments to visibly present nutrition labels and calorie labels on their standard menu items. Ultimately, few states ended up passing these bills. Those that did include California, Maine, New Jersey, and Oregon. What is more interesting is the states who lack interest on this issue. Generally, it seems that many of these states are the same states where obesity is the highest (see Appendix II, Figure II). To many it may seem that these states should be attacking the obesity epidemic the hardest since it is hitting them harder then their neighbors. However, from a politicians point of view, many of their voters are obese and do not want to be seen as lesser citizens5. Any politician to step on the toes of such an abundant group of voters would not be easily reelected. But now, the states are being overridden by the federal government. When the history-making health care bill passed, section 2572 included the requirement of nutrition labeling on standard menu items at chain restaurants (Appendix I). Political Environment: (Arguments for the policy) With our country gaining more and more pounds daily, the government has seen a need for intervention. In 2006, the New York City Health Department took the first step towards the addition of calorie labeling by proposing a requirement for all quick-service chain restaurants with more than 15 outlets to provide calorie counts on their menu boards12. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has been trying to implement calorie labeling for items in vending machines as stated in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 and ultimately want the labeling to be in all restaurants since majority of Americans are eating outside the home much more often than in the past5. (Arguments against the policy) At the same time that the New York City...
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