Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Are Menu Board Calories a Flop?

A recently publicized study reports that 5 years on and menu board calories out of NYC haven't led to behaviour change.

I'm still a supporter.


Well, firstly we know that posted menu board calories only matter to those who care about calories, and given pre-order surveys of patrons in New York City (where the recent study was conducted) showed that only about 15% of folks care, it's not particularly surprising to learn that overall drops didn't occur. Speaking personally, and with my patients, and with folks online, there's no doubt that those who care do use the labeling.

Secondly, what no study of menu board calorie impact will ever measure are the calories not ordered by the patrons who decided consequent to menu board calories postings, to eat out in restaurants less frequently and hence weren't included in the study at all.

Thirdly the study looked at the impact menu board labeling had on exclusively fast food purchases. Of all venues, fast food restaurants don't strike me as the places where we'll see major changes. People go to fast food restaurants to get specific and "fast" foods. People know what they're going to order before they even step in the door. People go for their Big Mac's, their nuggets, their chicken buckets, etc. Fast food restaurants have far less variety, and likely, aren't frequented as often by folks who'd report caring about calories/nutrition in the first place.

And lastly, there is never going to be a singular intervention that'll do the trick, but that doesn't mean we should scrap the single interventions, especially ones that simply provide consumers with information that will help to inform their decisions.

As I've mentioned on this blog before, couple menu board calories with better nutritional education in schools, public health campaigns surrounding daily caloric needs as well as a call to action to bring back home cooking, the end to crop subsidies that allow fast food to be sold for pennies, an advertising and toy ban for fast food companies targeting children, and maybe we'll see some changes.