A provision in last year’s federal health care reform bill requires all food-serving establishments with more than 20 outlets to post the calorie count of every item on the menu so customers know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. The FDA is taking nationwide an idea that some cities and counties had already put in place. It seems like a good idea in theory, but studies show that calorie counts on menus just make people say “ah, screw it” and order the same amount of food that they would have without the calorie posting–or more. A new study in this month’s International Journal of Obesity shows that children, too, fall into the same delicious caloric trap.
The study analyzed the fast-food choices made by kids ages 1 through 17 living in low-income neighborhoods in New York City and Newark. Researchers looked at what they ordered before and after the calorie-posting law went into effect. The posted calorie counts didn’t have much of an effect on what kids ate. Only 9% of teens claimed that the menu change had any effect on what they ordered.
Another unsurprising result? Kids and teens tend to order more calories when there’s not an adult with them.