Calorie labels don’t help

Research by CMU (my employer) finds that calorie information on menus does not induce people to consume fewer calories:

Despite the lack of any concrete evidence that menu labels encourage consumers to make healthier food choices, they have become a popular tool for policymakers in the fight against obesity. Carnegie Mellon University researchers recently put menu labels to the test by investigating whether providing diners with recommended calorie intake information along with the menu items caloric content would improve their food choices. . .

The results showed no interaction between the use of calorie recommendations and the pre-existing menu labels, suggesting that incorporating calorie recommendations did not help customers make better use of the information provided on calorie-labeled menus. Further, providing calorie recommendations, whether calories per-day or per-meal, did not show a reduction in the number of calories purchased.

Here’s a thought: Maybe people who order high-calorie food in restaurants are not ignorant of what they are doing. Maybe they are just making different decisions than the busybodies want them to make.

In any case, this research makes clear that the government should stop mucking with menus.

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