Calorie Counts on Fast Food Menus Aim to Curb Obesity

Calorie counts will soon be listed on fast food menus throughout the country.  The change comes as a result of the fight against obesity and was included in the health care bill passed earlier this month.

You may notice some changes headed to your favorite fast food chain soon. The health care bill passed earlier this month will require chain restaurants and fast food places to display their calorie count for all to see on menus and drive thru windows. The idea is to make people conscious of the amount of calories in their favorite combo meal, and hopefully sway their choices in a healthier direction.

Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, told the New York Times, “When people eat away from home they eat more and they eat worse. And part of the reason may be because they don’t know what’s in fast foods, and they’re often shocked to find out.”

Although Brownell admits that some people will ignore the nutritional information and eat the same as they did before, labeling menu items could have a positive effect on enough consumers to have a public health benefit.

Many eateries are expected to revise their recipes and meal offerings to appeal to increasingly health-conscious consumers once the numbers are revealed. But not everyone believes consumers will focus on calorie counts long term. Dr. J. Lynne Brown, professor of food science at Penn State University, told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that consumers will attempt to cut calories in the beginning, when the menu changes are new, but noted, “For many people, I don’t think this is going to matter.”

Even so, the issue seems to have strong public support. Decision Analyst, an international marketing research firm, recently surveyed 4,075 customers and found 55 percent of women and 45 percent of men support calorie disclosure. Consumers in the younger age groups were the most interested in seeing the numbers.

The requirement to post calorie counts on menus and signage could take effect as soon as next year, and the new rules will apply to restaurants with at least 20 locations, as well as vending machine operators with at least 20 machines.

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