The food nannies strike again

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Intent on making America’s eating habits as bland as a glass of warm milk on a hot day, nanny staters, including the liberal Institute for Medicine, are lobbying for “front-of-package” labels that graphically warn prospective consumers that the goodies they want to enjoy may make them fat.

According to a new report by the Institute for Medicine, the proposed “symbol system should show calories in household servings on all products.” The report goes on to recommend that “[f]oods and beverages should be evaluated using a point system for saturated and trans fats and sodium, and added sugars.” It concludes that “healthier” foods would have a higher number of points than less healthy products.

The report compares the healthy-symbol plan to the EPA’s “EnergyStar” label, which dates to the early 1990s and is supposed to prod consumers to buy energy-efficient appliances and electronic devices. Although generally ignored by consumers, the federal government touts the EnergyStar program as a great success in its “green” agenda for the planet.

Mary Story, a member of the Institute for Medicine pushing the new label, recently explained the organization’s proposal to The San Francisco Chronicle. She claimed such a move was necessary, because “people are so busy and there are so many products to choose from.” The magic of the proposed labeling mandate, in Ms. Story’s view, is that, “if there is a system that could very quickly, almost instantly, identify which foods are healthier in terms of reducing chronic disease risk for children and adults, it could really help.”

The nutritional content of foods, of course, is already exhaustively and quite clearly detailed on packaging, as required by federal government regulations administered by the Food and Drug Administration. However, these detailed labels are woefully inadequate for the busy bodies at the Institute for Medicine, whose faith in consumers to make responsible choices is far lower than their faith in government bureaucrats to make those choices for them.

Regardless of what the proposed fat labels might look like — the Pillsbury Doughboy or a smiling stick figure — it is certain they will not stop the vast majority of consumers from buying and eating foods they want, including those that are less than healthful. And nannies like the Institute for Medicine’s Ms. Story will not rest until foods they deem “unhealthy” are actually prohibited.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.