Nutrition Labels Change Nothing

This news was not the least bit surprising to me. Researchers from Duke-National University of Singapore (NUS) Graduate Medical School studied the effects of implementing restaurant menu nutrition labels on consumer purchases at restaurants in King County, Wash., the county that includes Seattle. They limited their analysis to one restaurant chain, the Mexican fast-food chain Taco Time. As of Jan.1, 2009, all restaurants with 15 or more locations in Kings County were required to make nutritional information available.

The researchers compared the food-purchasing behavior at restaurants within Kings County to those outside of Kings County, which did not add nutritional labels. After 13 months, they found no change in the average number of calories per transaction at the restaurants in Kings County relative to the restaurants outside of Kings County.

This news would only be remarkable to those who have stone-walled their belief system into the calories-in/out paradigm that makes any other outcome impossible. Obviously, people are no thinner and the sales from the restaurant indicate no real change in purchasing behavior so therefore the people must not be listening to the message. They can’t overcome their gluttony and sloth such that they could improve their situation.

It’s interesting that a chain such as Taco Time was used. If it was all about “calories” then surely this chain should have made a difference. After all, the restaurant should be the poster child of the recommended American diet. Consider their “promise“: 

That’s the deliciously real, deliciously fresh difference that is known as the TacoTime promise. This promise is a belief and dedication to serving chips, taco shells, salsas and special sauces made fresh in each restaurant every morning. Additionally, TacoTime only serves the freshest produce available, real aged cheddar cheese, 100% boneless skinless all-white meat chicken and top quality lean ground beef that is fresh and never frozen. Real ingredients make better food.

The menu is naturally low-fat. They have fresh vegetables and a small amount of lean meat. It’s 70% carbohydrate and should be a perfect way to eat. What would people change about what they order? Should they order the tacos meatless, perhaps? They feature plenty of bean burrito choices on the menu. That would lower the calorie count and make them vegetarians, but vegetarianism doesn’t always make people skinny, contrary to popular religious fantasy. Beans are starchy and very fattening coupled with tortillas and soft drinks.

Now, if you stay away from the “mexi-fries,” beans, tortillas and soft drinks, you would be on to something indeed, but we refuse to see them as the problem. We’re a nation that effectively tells addicts to take less of their drug. Just take your drug (carbohydrates) in moderation and things will improve yet we’re surprised when they don’t. Don’t take pure cocaine, take a little crack and half the amount. And don’t forget to exercise.

Of course, the failure of this little operation won’t stop them from conducting this experiment on a larger scale because obviously if it didn’t confirm their religious bias, the study must be flawed in some way. In this case, it was either the type of restaurant, “It’s possible that labeling may have more of an effect in sit-down restaurants than in fast food restaurants” or “a simple logo identifying which foods are healthiest may be all it takes to convey that information.”

So the take-home message here is that the poor lack the sophistication or attention span to understand and appreciate the calorie numbers at fast-food restaurants whereas the more affluent, non-rushed folks who eat at sit-down restaurants, would be more apt to understand it. Give the poor folks icons. Ridiculous.

And in the name of Preventive Medicine, by all means, make the study larger so if it appears to work for 15% of 1,000,000 people, we can claim a benefit to the madness.

As I wrote in my last post, “beware of Captain Obvious!”

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Posted on January 16, 2011 at 10:07 am by Charles · Permalink
In: Uncategorized

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