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Australia soon to offer BigMac with a side of guilt

The government of New South Wales (my home state) met with fast food execs to devise a plan that will force restaurants to print nutritional information on their menu boards. this means calorie, fat, and salt content will be just as visible as the price.

the plan will model laws in the US, which require fast food chains with over 20 outlets to display calorie content on menus, menu boards, and drive-thrus. the Heart Foundation of Australia has suggested to broaden the spectrum though, to include all large franchises with a standard menu. this would mean juice bars, ice-cream shops, bakeries and coffee shops can no longer run and hide. 

and in my humble opinion, this is a fantastic idea! how many menu items are disguising themselves as health food every single day? whether it’s smoothies, soups, salads, veggie burgers, muffins, the general public can be very easily duped. beverages are probably the biggest culprit. with marketing words like, ”made with real fruit juice”, an unassuming customer may not realize their juice is actually sugar on steroids.

but will this new mandate really affect peoples’ dining habits? can just knowing that Venti Green Tea Frappuccino is no healthier than a Big Mac actually sway one’s cravings??

so i googled this question, just to see how well the plan was doing in the U.S. one study found Starbucks customers in New York were consuming fewer calories than they were before. a whopping 6% less. beverage choices were not affected, however, customers were making less food purchases or switching to lower calorie options. and those outlets who had a competitor within a 50 meter radius experienced an increase in sales since displaying their calorie content.

in even better news: a study done by NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene showed consumers were buying significantly fewer calories at McDonald’s, Au Bon Pain, KFC, and Starbucks. 56% of customers reported seeing the nutition information, and on average, chose foods of 106 fewer calories than those who didn’t notice the posting.

truth be told, this contradicts an earlier study done by New York University and Yale University which found caloric postings had no barring on food choices in lower-income neighbourhoods. but city’s researchers claimed their study to be more reliable since it involved more people over a longer period of time, and was not limited to one economic group.

what do you think of calorie posting? do you think it has an affect on how people choose to eat?

although i believe this is a great move for Australia, i can’t help but be disappointed. if the bill onlyaffects chain restaurants, it won’t affect the majority of eateries. Australia has a ton of independent restaurants, we’re very cafe cultured. (not quite like Europe, but leaning towards.) there’s one on every downtown Sydney block, yet 90% of them are not chain related. of course, totally understand why these smaller companies are not required to be involved, but you know, if you’re eating at them, thinking you’re being “healthy” by avoiding fast food, how will you know for sure?

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