A new study in the British Medical Journal reports that calorie labeling on restaurant menus has largely failed to reduce calorie consumption at fast food restaurants.
Only 1 in 6 adults paid attention to calorie disclosures. Those adults consumed, on average, 105 calories less than during pre-labeling gorging (Table 3). But overall, calorie consumption was not reduced among those surveyed (Table 2).
The authors conclude:
… Results from this study suggest that there is a positive effect of calorie labelling on energy intake at some major chains, and that use of the information is clearly associated with lower calorie purchases across chains. However, a clear reduction in energy intake across the full sample was not found. A strong research agenda is needed for nutrition interventions. It will be particularly important to assess the energy content of fast food purchases periodically as restaurant chains reformulate menu items or change their menu offerings in response to the national legislation. Systematic tracking of changes to fast food menus would also be useful, in terms of energy, nutrients, and pricing, to examine the industry response to policy requirements. Calorie labelling is only one part of a framework to address the obesity epidemic. Additional strategies are needed to reduce energy intake on a population basis. Special attention should be focused on educating consumers on how to interpret and use nutrition information…
Apparently, the food nannies aren’t going away. Their next step will be to teach consumers how to count.