Friday, August 5, 2011

Calorie labeling shocker: Effective only when noticed.

The LA Times ran an article last week with a catching headline:  Calorie labeling may make a difference  -- if customers notice.  It opened:
Calorie labeling in fast food restaurants is part of the landscape, but is it making a difference in what customers buy? A study finds that it can, if people pay attention to the information.
The headline may as well have said, "Calorie labeling can make a difference - if customers can read," or " - if customers can count."   

Indeed, customer interest and the ability to interpret and understand the calorie information is crucial to menu labeling success.  Similarly, labeling arsenic as deadly will not be effective if the handler does not read the label, or have enough education to know better in the first place.

This evidence brings us to the following conclusions when assessing the effectiveness of menu labeling:

  • Calorie/nutrition information should be as conspicuously posted as possible.
  • Steps must be taken to give context to the information in order to facilitate the most informed decisions.
    • This is the reason why the national menu labeling law specifies that a sentence about the recommended daily caloric intake must be included on menus and menu boards.
In other words, customers must be able to read and reasonably interpret these figures before anyone can assume that they are choosing to ignore them.

Restauranteurs: where are you providing nutrition information for your customers?  Is it accessible and clear?


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