Calorie labelling has no effect on food purchases: Study

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WASHINGTON - A new study has challenged the idea that calorie labelling has an effect on the purchasing behaviour of teenagers or what parents purchase for their children.

Brian Elbel, assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine, and his team compared receipts and surveys from 427 parents and teenagers at fast-food restaurants before and after mandatory labelling began in July 2008.

They focused on lower income communities in New York City and then compared how much it changed eating habits compared with similar outlets nearby in New Jersey that did not have to label their food.ata was collected before labelling began, and one month after labelling laws went into effect.

Before labelling began, none of the teens in the study noticed calorie information in the restaurant. However, 57 percent in New York and 18 percent in Newark noticed the calorie information after labelling began.

According to the findings, 9 percent said the information influenced their choices, and all of the teens used the information to purchase fewer calories. Twenty-eight percent of adults said the labelling influenced their choice.

The study did not find a change in the number of calories purchased at fast-food restaurants after labelling went into effect.

Teens purchased about 725 calories and parents purchased about 600 calories for their children.

The way food tastes was considered the most important reason that teens bought it, while price was a consideration for slightly over 50 percent.

Just over a quarter of the group said that they often or always limited the amount of food they ate in an effort to control their weight.

The study also reported that most teenagers underestimated the amount of calories they had purchased, some by up to 466 calories.

Easy access and the convenience of restaurant locations were the greatest drivers for teens and then taste influenced where they chose to eat.

“It is important to understand that labelling is not likely to be enough to influence obesity in a large scale way. Other public policy approaches, as well as the efforts of food companies as other actors, will be needed,” said Elbel.

The study is published in the current issue of the International Journal of Obesity Advance Online Publication. (ANI)

Filed under: Obesity

will not be displayed