05 June 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project

Sandwich from Harolds Delicatessen.  It's BIGFrozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity in New York City


That, of course, would be the United States Department of Unintended Consequences, which is the large agency to which all the branches (Executive, Judicial, and Legislative) report.  I think even the Ministry of Silly Walks sometimes has to answer to them.  Here's a small, and uncharacteristically (for me) topical item to report today. 

FDA: Restaurants on front lines in obesity fight

Friday, June 2, 2006; Posted: 9:28 a.m. EDT   (USA Today)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A new report suggests restaurants should dish food and fight fat at the same time, meaning menus with more fruits and vegetables, smaller portions and better nutritional information.

Thank you Washington!  Thank you AP!  Thank you FDA!  Do you know how many restaurants there are?  Of course you don't, because, even if you're willing to do research (as I am not), and even if you managed to get an accurate count, it would be obsolete before you could report it.  Restaurants go in and out of business with depressing regularity.  And if they needed a judge's permission to change their name or reincarnate themselves, the legal system would have little time for anything else.  (Sadly that is not the case.)

There is a restaurant for every need, want, desire, velleity, and eccentricity.  Is the FDA suggesting that ALL restaurants adhere to some wimpy "small portion, list the calories" regimen?  Are they suggesting that Harold's Delicatessen (photo at left) reduce their sandwich to something that can be eaten by creatures that don't live in a Florida swamp?  Or a Serendipity Frozen Hot Chocolate be so etiolated that it can be consumed without concern for hypothermia?

Probably not.  I'm sure the FDA commissioners like to tuck into their calorie-laden chow when they're not forced to consume rubber chicken.   And perhaps having the larger chains make more info available is a good idea, although the news item didn't happen to mention that the government was going to pay for the lab tests.  But, as always, the USDUC has the last word.

When I leave many restaurants, I have the choice of taking with me a doggy bag or indigestion*.  The major benefit of the admittedly excessive portions at many restaurants is that they form the basis of the next day's (or in the case of Harold's, next week's) lunch.  Don't you think they know this?  (Can you name a restaurant that doesn't have doggy bags?)  Don't you think the FDA doesn't know?  Or do they defer to the USDUC and forget about it.  Let's say a restaurant always offered the usual, excessively large portion, but, in a spasm of appeasement, now decides to cut its size.  They can:

  • Cut it down to a "normal" portion.  At which point diners will whine that they're not getting enough food and take their custom elsewhere.
  • Cut it down to a somewhat larger-than-"normal" portion, but one smaller than previously offered.  At that size the customers will decide that it is too much, but eat it anyway since they paid for it and the excess is too small to engender a doggy bag request.  Then they will prepare their own PLUCO for tomorrow's lunch and eat even more.  In other words, smaller portions, fatter customers.

FDA, please report your failure to the USDUC.

* Zeugma alert.

Richard Factor