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June 14, 2010

Information and calories

Some people would like to see restaurants post the calories associated with foods on their menus. In fact, New York City started requiring this in 2008. Do we have any evidence yet from New York or any other areas as to whether such calorie information has changed consumer behavior?

Dr. Mike Walden, an economist with N.C. Cooperative Extension at N.C. State University, responds:

"We do have a study -- perhaps the first now ... that is using data from New York City, which ... does require this information to be posted, and two other cities, Boston and Philadelphia, which don't. So the researcher went out and collected information on buying habits, etc., from these three areas.

"Bottomline, they found -- determined -- that the effect of posting the calorie count on foods reduced -- reduced -- calorie consumption by customers by about 6 percent. Now that may not sound like a lot, and indeed if you look at the details all of that was a reduction for calories consumed in terms of food, none for drinks. That doesn't sound like a lot, and it may be that it is going to take time for this information to sink in with people.

"Researchers do say, however, that the biggest impact of this law may not be in terms of how much fewer calories people consume now, but it may be in terms of an impetus for restaurants to offer low calorie alternatives -- therefore, their menu expands, and if people do want lower calories they have a better option.

"So perhaps too early to tell here, but at least initial results is this law has had an impact."

Posted by deeshore at June 14, 2010 09:51 AM

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