Philadelphia, which imposed a calorie-label law in 2010, provides a good case study of the law’s impact. Researchers studied 2,000 McDonald’s and Burger King customers after it went into effect. The law made virtually no difference in the calorie count of food that people purchased or the number of times they ate at the restaurants. About 60 per cent of them didn’t even notice.
In another study, researchers at Carnegie Mellon wondered whether more information might help. So they gave McDonald’s customers pamphlets with recommended calorie intakes for a single meal and for a day. Nothing changed. Despite their new-found knowledge, a third of the customers continued to eat 1,000-plus-calorie meals. The researchers also found that people of healthy weights made the same choices as obese people.
“It is hard to counteract the fact that fast food is cheap and tastes pretty good,” Dr. Brian Elbel, lead researcher for the Philadelphia study, was quoted as saying. “We need to consider other, more robust interventional policies in places where obesity is most prevalent.”