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Study: Calorie labeling doesn’t change fast-food orders

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Calorie labeling in fast-food restaurants has no effect on the food purchases of parents or teens in low-income neighborhoods, according to a new study.

Though calorie labels increase awareness of calories, they don’t necessarily influence food choices or the number of calories consumed, according to the study, published in the International Journal of Obesity.

New York University School of Medicine researchers surveyed customers and collected their purchase receipts at four major fast-food chains — Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken — in July 2008, before New York City’s implementation of a new calorie-labeling regulation, and again at the same locations one month after labeling began.

The 349 participants were children and adolescents ages 17 and under who visited the restaurants with their parents (69 percent) or alone (31 percent).

The study found that just over half of adolescents and adults noticed the calorie counts after labeling began — but only 9 percent of adolescents and 16 percent of adults who saw the information said it mattered to them.

It also found that people bought food items with the same amount of calories before labeling began and after — for adolescents, it was about 725 calories, and for adults, about 600 calories.

Under a federal law passed last year, restaurants and stores nationwide that have at least 20 locations will be required to post calorie counts on menu boards and in stores and have nutrient information available in writing upon request. Vending-machine operators with 20 or more machines also will be required to post calorie counts for certain items.

Gannett News Service

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