On Wednesday, fast food giant McDonald’s announced it will begin posting calorie counts on all of its US menus beginning next week.
The move is voluntary but comes in advance of the impending activation of a lesser known provision contained in the Health Care Reform Act, which requires all restaurant chains with twenty or more locations to list calories alongside menu items.
No Changes To Eating Habits
While many, like Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have heralded the company’s new nutritional disclosure policy as an “important step forward,” research has been ambivalent as to whether having nutritional information out in open in restaurants really has much of an impact on eating habits.
A 2011 study conducted in New York City and Newark, for instance, where fast food chains have had to display calories on menus for a number of years already, revealed no reductions in caloric intake.
The Supply Side
Other investigations, however, have found positive changes on the supply side of the equation. That is, even though consumers may not be modifying their behavior based on new menu designs, restaurants will often modify recipes to lower the numbers on their menus.
In Seattle, nineteen calories were cut out of the average fast food entree after King County passed a law in 2009 requiring nutritional data be posted on menus.
Still, when you consider that a meal consisting of a fully-loaded Big Mac, large fries and a medium Coke boasts well over a thousand calories, this improvement a little underwhelming.