Conservatives decry federal ‘food police’

Bakst and the other experts called the regulations ineffective and unnecessary, saying the private sector is already responding to the public’s demands for more information about the nutritional value of the food they buy. 

Many restaurants are already posting caloric counts on their menus, even though the administration has yet to finalize the Affordable Care Act provision requiring them.

“We can go next door to Subway and see that they are reacting to the market,” Bakst said.

Nita Ghei, policy researcher editor at the Mercatus Center, said new rules are not likely to affect consumer behavior. She pointed to a massive U.S. weight-loss industry available to overweight Americans.

“If you are obese and you want to lose weight, there are lots and lots of options out there,” she said. “Regulations are not really going to change anything. They’re just going to raise costs.”

The experts acknowledged the federal government’s role in protecting food safety through processing standards and inspections. But having all but eliminated the dangers of tainted foods, regulatory agencies have succumbed to “mission creep,” shifting their focus from safety to nutrition, said J. Justin Wilson, senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.

This story was updated at 4:03 p.m. to correct the spelling of Ghei's name.