The Real World Impact Of One Regulation: 14 Million Plus Hours

by John Hawkins | November 9, 2010 4:31 am

Liberals have never met a regulation that they don’t like — well, unless it impacts trial lawyers, unions or some other special interest group that jerks them around like puppets. Whenever conservatives note that regulations kill jobs and suggest that the government tread lightly, we hear howls of outrage from the Left. Yet in the real world, this[1] is the sort of nightmare that the liberal zeal for over-regulation creates:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that it will take the food service industry 14 million additional hours each year to comply with a new regulation that mandates chain restaurants and vending machine operators label the products they sell with a calorie count in a place visible to the consumer.

Most of the burden of the regulation, which is buried in President Obama’s 2,000 page health-care reform bill, will fall on the vending industry.

In the Nov. 5 edition of the Federal Register, the FDA estimates “a total of 14,068,808 recurring hours, with nearly all of these for vending machine operators, including 31,408 recurring hours for recordkeeping and 14,037,400 recurring hours for third party disclosure” in conjunction with the regulation.

The recordkeeping element includes recording and keeping track of the calorie content of each item offered in a vending machine, while the vast majority of the time will be spent on third party disclosure — actually communicating that content to the consumer.

The FDA says that time will have to be invested again each year, as the labels will likely “have a relatively short life and the mix of product in a machine will change over time.”

Ned Monroe, the senior vice president of government affairs for the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA), called the required time investment “absurd” and “unfair.”

…Monroe told in August that he believes most customers “recognize the snacks and the drinks have the nutritional facts panel already on the packaging,” and that most people understand the relative nutritional values associated with the often familiar products.

“People that purchase items out of vending machines — it’s not the first time they’ve tried the product, so they understand that there are certain calories in a chocolate treat versus a honey bun versus a baked chip.”

In doing its own calculations, NAMA has determined that the FDA’s estimate may still be underestimating the time investment necessary, Monroe said.

“It’s even more troubling that after reviewing the calculations in the report the 14 million hour estimate might not even be enough,” he said. “The implementation for this policy is completely wrong. It’s obvious that the FDA needs to rethink this approach completely. In this economy where our small business members are struggling to survive, they can’t afford to spend 14 million hours each year to comply with this new regulation.”

In other words, folks, more than 14 million man hours are going to be spent publicly displaying the nutritional information that’s already on the packaging of the products in the vending machine. Why is this? Just in case there’s someone in America who doesn’t already know there are less calories in a Diet Dr. Pepper than there are in a regular Coke? So that people can make some sort of health based decision between a Snickers bar and a Three Musketeers bar without having to look it up on the Internet or buy the products first?

What we have here is a classic piece of regulation that comes out of Washington. Someone decides doing X, Y, or Z is a “good idea” for whatever reason. They put zero thought into the cost and difficulty of complying with the new regulation. Then, they make the regulation the law of land.

Now here’s the really scary part: They then rinse and repeat. That brainless, irresponsible process is reproduced over and over again until it strangles small businesses and forces entrepreneurs to either go out of business or break the law. A lot of the time, big corporations are actually okay with these ridiculous regulations for exactly that reason: They have the deep pockets to survive these regulations, but the small companies that are cutting into their marketshare don’t.

Regulations like this one are why we should deregulate as much as possible and only keep regulations in place when they really matter, instead of trying to micromanage whether people eat Hot Fries or Cheetos at work tomorrow.

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