September 13 2012

McDonalds Posts Calories; Eaters Yawn and Order High-Calorie Food

Julie Gunlock

A Reuter's story about McDonalds announces that the "world's No. 1 hamburger chain said on Wednesday it is going to start listing calorie information on menus in some 14,000 U.S. restaurants and drive-throughs - ahead of a national rule that will require larger restaurant chains to make such disclosures."  The article goes on to call McDonald's "a trend setter for restaurants" and says that the restaurant's "move in this arena - while prompted by regulations and pressure from public health activists - is likely to force other restaurant operators to follow quickly."

Yeah, it was nice for the Reuter's writer to mention the regulations but McDonald's early move in this area is hardly the "force" driving other restaurants to post calorie information.  The real force is the force of law in the form of Obamacare which requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie information.  That's a force restaurants can't really resist because unlike McDonalds, the federal government can punish restaurants for non-compliance.

The press is going to paint this as a progressive step on the part of restaurants--a step in the right direction toward full disclosure and healthier choices.

Spare me.

No one is going to look up at those menu boards and fall over from shock that they're consuming 1,000-plus calories in one meal.  When one enters a McDonalds, they know what they're getting--high-calorie, delicious food.  But of course, public health officials--the ones pushing for these calorie postings--don't think much of the American public. They like to paint the general population as confused, baffled by simple decisions and constantly in need of guidance on things as elemental as what to order for lunch.

The other inconvenient nugget of information that won't be mentioned in the press coverage of this move by McDonalds and other large chain restaurants are the multiple studies that have been done both here in the U.S. and in Great Britain (where these calorie postings have been required for over a decade) which show, in general, no one pays attention to the calorie information.  In fact, some studies actually show a some unintended consequences--people sometimes throw in towel and order higher-calorie items than they originally intended to order.

For information on those studies, check out my past writing on this topic here, here and here.

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