Thursday, February 24, 2011

Calorie Recount

Crain's Insider is reporting that the NYC DOH has come up with its own "study" of menu labeling-and shockingly it shows a positive impact on customer choice: "The city's menu labeling law inspires about 15% of consumers to change their purchasing habits, leading them to eat an average of 100 fewer calories per purchase, a new study presented by the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene concludes. The results show that menu labeling, controversial when introduced in 2008, is “not going to solve the obesity epidemic,” said a city health official, but it does have an impact. The official said a Starbucks survey showed that menu labeling had no impact on sales, but purchases totaled 6% fewer calories."

We say shockingly, because the city is famous-like the old Horn and Hardart's-for self serving. Whether it is studies of 
bike lanes or pedestrian plazas; or ramps off of the Van Wyck-the studies always show just what the city would like us to believe. But what makes the calorie counting study peerless is that it has no peer review to bolster its credibility.

And credible it isn't since, as we have seen, there has been no independent study to demonstrate that forcing fast food operators to post calorie counts has had any real impact on customers making better choices. As City Room reported last week: "Researchers at New York University have found that calorie-posting in fast-food restaurants has little influence on the foods teenagers order. They found that more than half of the teenagers noticed the calorie postings. A quarter of the teenagers said they were weight-conscious, and 9 percent of the teenagers said the labeling made them buy lower-calorie foods. But when the researchers examined their receipts, they found that the actual calorie counts were the same before and after restaurants began posting calories. Teenagers typically bought food totaling about 725 calories."

It should be pointed out that the NYU research team is led by Marion Nestle, a proponent of menu labeling-making the results believable since Nestle is, as the lawyers say, arguing against interest. And of course it would be useful to actually see the DOH study methodology since previous research efforts by the department have been 
spit out by reputable journals.

As we 
pointed out over three years ago-in response to a NY Times editorial, the evidence used to support the regulation was never seen or reviewed by anyone outside of the DOH: "The answer is in a survey that, as far as we know, no one has seen and almost certainly was not scientifically designed and peer-reviewed. According to this survey, the customers at Subways are being informed about calorie counts and because they are, better nutritional choices are being made: "The big chains fighting the city might take a cue from Subway. The sandwich maker is using calorie counts as a marketing tool and a way to build on its reputation as a more healthful fast-food alternative. It has voluntarily posted calories where customers can easily see them, usually on the menu board."

But the Times was proved wrong-as was the moonbat judge who ruled in 
the city's favor, claiming that menu labeling would reduce the obesity epidemic (something that the DOH has now backed away from): "In a 27-page opinion, Judge Holwell accepted one of the city’s main arguments for posting calorie counts — that doing so would help reduce obesity, which city officials say has reached epidemic levels. “It seems reasonable to expect that some consumers will use the information” on menu boards and menus “to select lower-calorie meals,” the judge wrote. He added that “these choices will lead to a lower incidence of obesity.”
That's what you get when judges act as nutritionists and sociologists-while swallowing whole what the self servers tell them. At the end of the day, the entire experiment has fallen flat-except over at Starbucks where more health conscious higher income yuppies are leaving out the muffins while drinking their lattes and frappuccinos.