Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Calories mandatory on menus in New York.

In January, the New York City’s Board of Health voted unanimously to require all city chain restaurants (with 15 or more outlets or 10% of all city’s restaurants) to post calories on their menus by March 31 2008.

New York readers: take pictures for us, ok?!

This information will help New Yorkers make healthier choices about what to eat. The NY City Department of Health points to studies that show that 90% of people underestimate the calories in chain restaurant meals by ~600 calories. Other sources, including Brian Wansink’s work done as director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and documented in his book ‘Mindless Eating’, has shown that people always underestimate calories, but they get it especially wrong when they’re eating something they think is healthy, grossly underestimating calories by about 50 percent!

Similar menu labelling requirements have been adopted in King County, Wash., which includes Seattle, and are under consideration by 21 other state and local governments. Nothing yet in Canada.

This NY initiative has been very controversial. As could be predicted, The New York Restaurant Association sued the Board of Health in an attempt to block the measure, claiming it would violate its members' First Amendment rights. They also argued that consumers really don't want that information on menus because it will look too "cluttered" and that consumers can already find the information on many company Web sites. They said that other labeling laws haven't made a bit of difference to the obesity epidemic. Foods in the grocery stores have been required to list all sort of health information for years, and yet waistlines keep expanding. They lost.

Dr. David B. Allison, the incoming president of the Obesity Society, a leading organization of obesity doctors and scientists, surprisingly sided with the Restaurant association and basically said that having the calories on display could result in a “forbidden-fruit allure” of high-calorie foods or send customers away hungry enough that they will later gorge themselves even more. Huh?! This angered many of the Obesity Society members since he organization supports calorie labelling on menus and had to issue a statements in response saying: “The Obesity Society believes that more information on the caloric content of restaurant servings, not less, is in the interests of consumers.”

The new labelling rules by New York City’s Board of Health also have support from consumer groups like Public Citizen and the Center for Science in the Public Interest, as well as doctor groups like the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American
Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association.

Not so surprisingly, David Allison has since resigned. Turns out he was being paid as a consultant for the restaurant industry! He’s also worked as an advisor for companies like Coca Cola, Kraft Foods and Frito-Lay in the past. Hmmm.

Ok. Let’s see how good you are at guesstimating calories of restaurant foods!

What has more calories? (If you're feeling confident, you can try guessing how many calories each choice has too!)

1. a) Grande Café Mocha with whip with nonfat milk
b) McDonald’s Bacon Cheeseburger.

a) McDonald's Medium fries
b) Cranberry Orange scone (Starbucks).

a) Regular plate of spaghetti with meatballs
b)1 slice Pizza Hut Meat Lover’s stuffed crust pizza (1/8 large pizza)

a) Croissant with spinach & cheese (Au Bon Pain)
b) Plain bagel with 2 oz cream cheese

a) Banana Berry smoothie- original (Jamba Juice)
b) Cafeteria-style lasagna (1 piece)

Answers will be posted in a couple of days!! Stay tuned.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/business/04obese.html , http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/16/business/16obese.html?fta=y , http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/01/22/calories.menus/index.html , http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/blogs/paging.dr.gupta/2008/01/counting-calories-on-fast-food-menus.html ,
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/16/60minutes/main3513549.shtml , The Calorie King(R) Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counter. 2007.


ings said...

I'm sure the answers to your quiz will surprise us all!

Naznin said...

Here are my guesses for the quiz:
1 b
2 b
3 b
4 a
5 b

nc said...

Wow this should be interesting. I would be in support if Canada would adopt this!

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

I support this as well because more information is better. However, with more information, I think the danger is that people aren't necessarily more educated.... For example, people don't know how many calories per day they should be getting. And calories is just one thing right? Some higher calorie foods may be lower in saturated or trans fats than lower calorie foods... maybe this should be another blog!

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Answers are in- March 27th's blog!