Food Labels
12:06 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Fast Food Calorie Labeling, Do They Really Work?

Do food labels influence the fast food you order?

Behavioral scientists say there is no evidence showing that nutritional labels listed on fast food is causing Americans to choose items lower in calories, salt and fat.

They were rolled out to help consumers make better food choices. But many behavior scientists suggest the information isn't influencing us nor are they helping to reduce obesity. Dr. Brian Elbel, an associate professor of Population Health and Health Policy at New York University School of Medicine, says there is no evidence showing nutritional labels listed on fast food is causing Americans to choose items that are lower in calories, salt and fat.

“An increasing amount of evidence tells us that fast food labels will not change eating levels at a large population level," explains Dr. Elbel. "Consumers will see them but they don't tend to change their ordering patterns because of them.”

But Dr. Elbel does says a change in packaged food labels could have a greater impact on consumers. According to him, there is a new push to put nutritional labels on the front of packaged food where people are more likely to look. He also says the Federal Food and Drug Administration is trying to decide if these labels should be standardize. “Really highlight the things we think are driving obesity, heart disease and focus on calories, fat, added sugar, and sodium," says Dr. Elbel.

He adds, "There is a movement to focus on those labels that are streamline, that use symbols and move away from a number based system. I think those could have a greater influence on obesity rates.”

Friday, April 4th on the campus of Wake Forest University, Dr. Elbel will speak at Food Laws and Public Health Safety Symposium. He and other experts will discuss several policies associated with food laws in this country. Wake Forest University School of Law is hosting this free event. It is from 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. in the Worrell Professional Center, room 1312.