According to a fact sheet circulated by the the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) , two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, with women faring only slightly better than men. Here's how the numbers stack up:
All adults 133.6 million (66%)
Women 65.0 million (61.6%)
Men 68.3 million (70.5%)
In addition to not getting enough exercise, most consumers are clearly oblivious to what they're eating.
For example, did you know that a Chili's smoked turkey sandwich (930 calories) has more calories than a sirloin steak (540 calories)? (We didn't.)
And, just in case you were wondering, there's a difference of nearly 1,000 calories between a Burger King cheeseburger (330 calories) and a Triple Whopper with cheese (1230 calories).
In an attempt to stem the obesity tide, New York City has taken the lead in requiring fast-food establishments to list calorie information on their menus. New York City Health Code Regulation 81.50 will require restaurants to "post on menu boards and menus the calorie content (in kcal) ... for each menu item."
Of course, that move has encountered considerable resistance from the New York State Restaurant Association -- a trade group comprised of some 7,000 members, nearly a 1000 of which are located in the New York City area -- which has filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York in an effort to quash the new law.
Believe it or not, the Association is claiming that the City's regulation is violative of both the Supremacy Clause and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Yes, you read that right.
The Association is claiming (among other things) that the City is infringing upon the "right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment." (Puh-leese!)
Since regular and unmonitored intake of high-caloric foods will inevitably lead to excess body weight, why expose consumers to the risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood cholesterol, stroke, hypertension, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea (and other breathing problems), and some forms of cancer (uterine, breast, colorectal, kidney, and gallbladder)?
In addition to a marked increase in mortality rates associated with obesity, the economic costs (ascribed to health care and the like) are a staggering $117 billion.
Why not empower consumers with knowledge and allow them to make informed choices?
As these amici have correctly observed in their joint memorandum filed in mid-July, Congress has not preempted any state nutrition labeling requirements for restaurants, and, courts have typically applied a different standard to "commercial speech," in order to encourage the free flow of information, particularly when it comes to warning and nutrition data.
Dieters of the world unite!
To download a copy of the DHHS fact sheet, please use this link: Statistics Related to Overweight and Obesity
To download a copy of the Association's complaint, please use this link: Complaint (6/14/07)
To download a copy of the Association's memo of law, please use this link: New York State Restaurant Association Memorandum (6/14/07)
To download a copy of the Amici Curiae brief, please use this link: Brief of Amici Curiae U.S. Representative Henry Waxman, et al (7/16/07)