In 2008, New York City was the first in the country to mandate that fast food restaurants post calorie counts on their menus. While I thought it was a good idea, if for no other reason than people should have a right to full disclosure of what is going into their bodies, I was a bit unsure that people would change. I figured people want what they want, even if they see their favorite sandwich packs 800 calories.
But, I happily stand corrected.
The New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has released findings of a recent analysis on the impact of the city’s new menu label requirements. The results show that people became more selective with foods, choosing items with fewer calories. People chose lower calorie meals at 9 of 13 fast food restaurant and coffee chains that were included in the study.
The analysis conflicts with an earlier independent study that asserted the contrary, that the menu labeling change had no effect on consumer eating habits.
The researchers in the latest findings say their information is more reliable because it involved a much larger sample size. It wasn’t limited to low-income neighborhoods, like in the earlier study. And the newer study surveyed more than 10,000 customers at a total of 275 locations, while the earlier study only surveyed 1,156 consumers at four restaurants chains.
“Dietary change is likely to come gradually; it will start with consumers interested in making informed, healthy eating decisions and we hope industry will respond by offering more healthier choices and appropriate portion sizes,” says Lynn Silver, assistant commissioner for New York’s Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Control.