Do calorie counts change our decisions?
The health care bill that was recently signed into effect requires that restaurant chains post the caloric values of all menu items. The idea is that by making people more aware of the calories in each item, they’ll be motivated to make better decisions about what they consume. Unfortunately, when it comes to the effect of these initiatives on consumer decisions, the results are conflicting.
A recent Wall Street Journal article reports that a study by the New York Health Department shows “preliminary results show that one in six fast-food customers report using the calorie-count information. Consumers who said they used the information bought items with 106 fewer calories compared with those who didn’t see or use the information.”
Conversely, in another report, New York University and Yale reveal that New York City’s law requiring fast food to post calorie values on menu items had no positive effect on consumer’s caloric intake. In fact, researches compared receipts against consumer purchases prior to the posting of calorie values, it was discovered that “customers actually ordered more caloric items after the law went into effect than before”.
It’s clearly too early to quantify the effect that calorie postings have on consumer’s decisions. However, it is evident that perhaps alternative initiatives are required to help people make better decisions about food choices.