Thursday, February 5, 2009

Menu labeling works, industry researcher finds

Four out of five New Yorkers are rethinking what they order in chain restaurants because of the calorie counts that are now posted next to each item on menus and menu boards, according to a survey by the foodservice researcher Technomic Inc.

The study found that 60% of restaurant customers base their choice of establishment in part on the posted information, which is now required from local outlets of chains with at least 15 branches nationwide.

Worst for the industry, nine out of 10 consumers said the calorie content of items was higher than expected.

The findings will likely stifle the industry’s assertions that calorie counts are already widely available in a variety of other forms and should be no mystery to those who care about such things.

Label mandates have already been approved in California and the Washington State county that includes Seattle. Proposals are pending in a slew of states, including West Virginia.

The industry, realizing it’s trying to hold back a movement that’s not likely to be stopped, has shifted its strategy to promoting a national labeling mandate that would be less costly and difficult for restaurants to satisfy. Called the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act, or LEAN, it was introduced into both chambers of Congress last year.

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