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November 4 2015

Mandated Calorie Displays Won't "Cure" Obesity

Julie Gunlock

The Daily Mail reports on a new study that suggests mandated menu labels would help reduce the obesity “epidemic.”

But not so fast. While the study did show that restaurants that voluntarily display calorie counts offer food with fewer calories, the study did not examine human behavior. It didn’t analyze the people actually ordered. Did they order fewer calories or did they continue to order the higher calorie items on the menu?

Fortunately, we already know he answer to that question. Thanks to many very well respected studies (see here, here and here) that have shown that people simply ignore calorie information or, in some cases, order higher calorie items when they see their “healthy” choice is close in calories to a not-so-healthy option.

So yes, this study showed the not-so-surprising trend of restaurants – particularly restaurants that display calorie information – working to look responsible and health conscience. It makes complete sense in our health-obsessed world that restaurants interested in being competitive are going to shy away from offering 3,000-plus plates of creamy pasta.

The point is, it doesn’t take government mandated calorie counts and menu labeling laws to make restaurants understand the need to offer healthier options or to make their entire menus healthier. Restaurants across the board are doing this and have been for years.

Consumers have choices—they can eat at restaurants that offer calorie information and offer healthier, lower calorie options or they can choose to eat elsewhere. As consumers demand more information, restaurants that want to maintain a competitive edge will offer that information. If restaurants don’t meet this demand, they will fail.

That’s the beauty of the free market. 

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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