Congress gives junk food giants a huge break — and you’re paying the price

Word on the street is that fast food chains may be let off the hook when it comes to stricter calorie labeling. And let’s just say that I’m not lovin’ it

In February, the House overwhelmingly approved new legislation that would loosen requirements that the FDA recently imposed on large food retail businesses like Domino’s and McDonald’s. These requirements are set to go into effect this year. They apply to any business with 20 or more locations that sells prepared food (that includes businesses like grocery and convenience stores, movie theaters, coffee shops, and amusement park vendors). And they require that these businesses display calorie content “clearly and conspicuously” on menus and display boards.

Considering the calorie bombs these places sling all day — McDonald’s “big breakfast” delivers a whopping 1,350 calories in a single shot — a simple, easy-to-read label sounds like a reasonable request, doesn’t it?

Well, not if you’re a House Republican, apparently. These legislators have dismissed the new requirements as “burdensome.” They’d like to loosen them up a bit — including lowering the financial penalties to businesses for non-compliance.

Among the complaints: Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan (home base of Domino’s Pizza) argued that requiring calories to be posted on a menu board makes no sense, because upwards of 90 percent of the delivery chain’s orders are made online.

I’ll tell you what doesn’t make sense — that completely absurd objection. Most people order online? Well then make the restaurants post their calorie info online, too. Why should one replace the other?

Yet, this proposed legislation would allow pizza chains like Domino’s to post calories exclusively online, as well as allow them to decide what constitutes a serving size. (Most people figure a serving size is, well, what you’re SERVED. Not necessarily so, under this proposed legislation — which happens to be a very effective way to ensure that Americans keep overeating.)

What we have here is a bunch of evasive, hair-splitting stall tactics.

The new FDA labeling requirements aren’t threatening to put neighborhood greasy spoons out of business. We’re talking about huge corporations that pull in billions of dollars every year. You would think businesses with such means could comply with these simple regulations in pretty short order.

After all, it’s taken six whole years for us to even get to this point. The order for these new menu labeling rules first came down from Congress back in 2010. And — shamefully, but not at all surprisingly — the FDA took their sweet time responding.

Anyone who can’t see this for what it is hasn’t been paying attention. This is all about the obscene amount of money lobbyists spend to get their way with our government, via elected officials. Who unfortunately care more about their pockets being lined with cash than about you — their supposed constituents.

Every retailer of prepared food knows exactly what ingredients go into their products. In fact, many recipes are so proprietary they’re guarded secrets. Trust me, these scam artists are fully aware of what they’re selling to unsuspecting consumers. Complying with these rules for the sake of transparency would be easy as McDonald’s deep fried apple pie.

So if they’re scared to do it, I guarantee you there’s a good reason — and it’s not the money that they stand to lose on making new menu boards. It’s the money they stand to lose from the paying customers who will be reading those menu boards.

Or at least, the money they think they stand to lose. I live in New York City, where we have ample calorie-count signage already. And I hate to say it, but I’m not sure it matters. Sadly, I suspect that people who eat those foods will continue to eat them — regardless of the cold, hard facts staring them in the face when they order.

But with obesity costing this country $147 billion a year, don’t you think we should try everything we possibly can to put a dent in this crisis?

I certainly do. But unfortunately, much of Washington disagrees. Support for loosening label requirements was overwhelming — and the proposed legislation is on its way to the Senate as we speak. The Obama administration has stated its opposition to the measure, but didn’t threaten to veto it.

In other words, politics carry on as usual — with a whole lot of pretending, and very little actual interest in the health of the American people.