So I was recently in New York for a ‘bee wedding and also to visit my sweet friend, Mina and a college friend. I noticed as I was walking around the city that every single food item was labeled with the number of calories it contained. Even the hotdog carts listed the calories associated with each of their treats.
I really paid attention, but this was an entirely new concept for me. I come from the land where we top the charts for 5 of the fattest cities. I know that labeling nutritional information isn’t a new concept since so many of the prepackaged food items we purchase contain this, but on menus and at fast food restaurants where we tend to forget about the nutritional value of the items we consume, it seems like a great idea.
However, this initiative began in July 2008, and the results are in–sadly, they aren’t finding any significant changes. In fact, there seems to be a slight increase in the number of calories people are consuming. The study was conducted by NYU and Yale, and they tracked customers at four fast-food chains — McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken in poor neighborhoods of New York City where there are high rates of obesity. Although about half of the people surveyed said that they saw the calories listed, and 28% of those that saw them said they influenced their choices, their receipts indicated otherwise.
Is it because people are bad at math? Are they only calculating a portion of what they’re actually consuming? Or do people just not care? Or, probably more likely–it’s really difficult to change people’s behavior. I realize that if you’re eating at any of the above mentioned fast food restaurants, you probably aren’t super health conscious, but when the 1200 calorie combo meal is staring you in the face, how do you say yes?
However, the impact of this public health campaign shouldn’t be ruled out yet. The city of New York is conducting their own study that will include about 12,000 receipts (as opposed to the 1100 the other study relied on), so it will be interesting to see what those results indicate. I doubt Texas will adopt this strategy, but we need to do something.