By May of next year, new federal regulations will require restaurants with more than 20 locations to post calorie counts on their menus – a rule that will affect most fast food restaurants nationwide. But a new study from New York University suggests that posting calorie counts at fast food joints could cause as little as just eight percent of customers to adjust their eating habits – a finding that led the study’s authors to question whether the change does enough to nudge Americans towards better food choices.
The research, recently published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, specifically focused on people in the Philadelphia area, utilizing data from 2008, collected not long after the city passed regulations requiring calorie counts on fast food menus. Of the 699 people surveyed after eating at a fast food restaurant, only eight percent of respondents “would be expected to change their eating behavior as a result of menu calorie labeling,” wrote NYU’s website. The study also surveyed 702 Philadelphia residents by phone, and this group demonstrated a higher chance of benefiting from the legislation, with 16 percent of respondents suggesting calorie counts might improve their eating habits. However, though this subsection did say they ate fast food at least once a week, they weren’t caught red-handed at a fast food joint like the latter group.