Will seeing calories on restaurant menus change your order? - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Will seeing calories on restaurant menus change your order?

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

If you saw how many calories were in a meal on a restaurant menu, would you change your order? The law requiring chain restaurants to list calories on menus has been delayed and delayed. Now some studies say it may not help curb obesity anyway.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill supports the law that will call for chains with at least twenty restaurants to list calories on menus. The law was part of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.

"We feel it's important to educate the guests and we're hoping it will lead to a healthier lifestyle," explained Firebirds Manager Kim Puryear.

Like many restaurants, Firebirds already posts nutritional information about their dishes on their website. They also have kiosks where servers can look it up for customers.

"It shows how much goes into the item, which will be easy for calorie counts," she showed us.

Some restaurants, such as McDonald's, already list calories on their menu boards. And it's already required in chain restaurants in California, Oregon, New York City, and Philadelphia.

So would seeing how many calories are really in your favorite restaurant meal make you choose something else? Studies so far are mixed.

A Stanford University study showed calories per order at Starbucks went down 6%. But a Carnegie Mellon study found it didn't change people's selections much. And a Drexel University study showed diners averaged 155 fewer calories, but still ordered nearly a day's worth of calories in one meal.

The low success rates have convinced Jason Stverak, President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, that reprinting menus is an unnecessary expense, particularly for franchise owners.

"You can take a look at Domino's Pizza," said Stverak. "They've done a study and it's about $4700 to $5000 per store for them to implement these laws. If you look at 20 franchisees, that's a little over $100,000."

He says it's complicated further when restaurants let customers choose different ingredients.

"You can go to Applebee's and decide you want your chicken salad with dressing on the side and no walnuts," said Stverak. "Now imagine that for every single item you have on the menu."

The FDA first planned to issue calorie reporting rules for restaurants, vending machines, and grocery stores in 2011, but has delayed a few times. Why?

The FDA wrote in a statement to us, "We received numerous comments on the proposed rule and are considering them in developing the final rule." You can read their full statement below.

No date has been set for when the law will be implemented. Stverak believes the law should be repealed. But Firebirds says it's is ready to implement it.

"We were looking to change our menu in 2015. We're always evaluating our menu options to keep up with the latest food trends," said Puryear.

Meantime, if you want to know the calories in food you order at a restaurant, you'll have to ask the server, or check the restaurant's website.

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Full statement from the FDA:

 

 

"We received numerous comments on the proposed rule and are considering them in developing the final rule. The final rule will include the dates for compliance.

In general, the purpose of the rule is to ensure that consumers have direct access to more nutrition information when they make food choices in restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Americans consume about one-third of their total calories on foods prepared outside the home. While consumers can find calorie and other nutrition information on most packaged foods, it's not generally available in restaurants, and restaurant meals tends to have more calories than similar meals prepared at home. Over consumption of calories is one of the primary risk factors for overweight and obesity in the general population. No single action can fix the obesity problem, but menu labeling is a tool that will give consumers consistent and accessible nutrition information so that they can make informed choices for themselves and their families. In addition, by requiring such labeling, those who prepare foods served outside the home, such as restaurants, may be motivated to improve the nutrition profiles of those foods.

More information on the proposed requirements are online at: <http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm217762.htm>"

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