As a nutrition analysis solutions provider I'm thrilled that there is going to be a national standard for menu labeling. Keeping up with all of the state and local laws is very confusing, especially for chain restaurants with multiple locations covered by different ordinances (see my blog on the subject here: http://www.fohboh.com/profiles/blog/show?id=1411008:BlogPost:358673)
Do I think that law is going to cure America's obesity epidemic? Of course not.
Do I think it's a step in the right direction? I do, I think that empowering consumers with information is always better than keeping them in the dark.
Still as a student, I'm very interested in the subject. In fact, I'm doing my senior thesis on how restaurants can capitalize on the menu labeling. I've worked for years in the kitchen of a leading chain and I've seen what it put into the foods. Highly processed foods with high fat, high sodium, and filled with ingredients that can't be pronounced.
Through my research and talking to industry professionals on the impact on their sales mix, this law will take time to see the overall benefit in the society and possibly in the financials of the restaurants (still collecting data for the thesis). But talking with my mentor who has spent almost 30 years in the industry, I've found that these laws, however patch work they are currently, are really being put into place for the next generation who will look at the labeling and use it just like people between 25 and 40 use grocery labels where as their parents did not. The federal law (LEAN act) being proposed will attempt to unify the requirements to make it easier on chains and wake up consumers of this generation to use them.
Please, if you could, help me further collect data on the possible affects that the nutritional menu labeling in NYC has affected establishment's sales mix and relative profits by taking a short on-line survey. It's not a solicit and is completely confidential (won't ask for specific numbers or names of the establishments) I would really like to see the true affect quantified. The link:
You make a very good point regarding the grocery label use now, as opposed to the past.
I begin to see this in a different light, but remain steadfast that there must be alterations made to include grade school nutrition instruction, and greater oversight of the advertisements fed to children via the entertainment industry, commercials, product placement, and shelving levels at grocery stores, etc.
I urge you to check into the possibility of a link between additives and preservatives used in processed food and the uptick in allergies and food sensitivities. Many of those are counted as trace elements and, as such, are not regulated.
Children are a huge marketing possibility. Not only do they stimulate demand in products geared towards children but they also get parents to buy certain products. I can see the counter impression that the advertising will lessen regulations reach to the next generation. However, I read an article that might interest you on the subject. It reports the results that have happened due to the nutritional labeling regulations in NYC and their affects on mothers with children. (unfortunately the article is no longer posted on-line) It said that even though the mothers were not making healthier decisions for themselves after the calorie content was posted, they did make healthier choices for their children by a significant amount. http://www.chainleader.com/lexisnexis/9093718-Does_label_law_change... (I posted the link for reference)
I agree with you that there is a link between the processed foods and the increase in allergies and food sensitivities. Many quick service restaurants turn to processed foods to deliver faster, more reliable and consistent products to the consumer. But the jury is still out in many cases. Processed foods have only been on the mainstream market since the 50's and the affects of the preservatives and artificial chemicals are only being discovered on the aging baby-boomers. For the government to regulate these additives would take more research and time. The public also must catch up to understand the affects of these additives and to demand regulation. Just as the current nutritional labeling laws have come about due to consumers eating out more and connecting it with obesity and health problems. We really have only touch the tip of the ice burg in nutritional labeling regulations but I think also, that it is an evolution of knowledge through the generations.
I think its a great idea because it will encourage cooks to adjust their recipes to provide healthier choices. Its kind crazy to offer a salad with over 1200 calories don't you think? I think its a step in the right direction. There will always be people who wish to live in blind bliss but I think in the end everyone will come out healthier for it.
Has it not been demonstrated that restaurants that have voluntarily done this before, have experienced little change in patron behavior; and that the behavior that was noted was that calories/meal actually increased?
I believe history will show that, for the general population, it will make little difference. If people want a sauce laced with cream and butter, they will not worry about the calorie count. And most people will not study how high is the calorie count for a salad; to a fast food patron, a salad is a salad, and the whole point of going to a fast food joint is because speed is of the essence. Stopping to count the calories is not part of those patrons' normal concerns.
The law will make a difference to those who count calories on a regular basis. But those people already know about the calories and other dangers of an alfredo sauce. Trying to teach others through this law is probably a waste, to a large degree.
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