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NewsBites October 2011 Issue

Fast-Food Calorie Counts Work—If You Use Them

Do calorie counts on menus cause restaurant patrons to eat less? The answer depends on whether customers are paying attention, according to a new lunchtime survey at 168 New York City fast-food locations. Only one in six customers used the calorie information, mandated by 2008 regulations similar to those due to hit fast-food eateries nationwide as a result of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But those who did pay attention to the numbers cut an average of 106 calories from their lunches. Over a year, noted the researchers, affiliated with the city’s health department, that would add up to losing (or keeping off) 12 pounds. A comparison of data from cash-register receipts showed no overall decline in lunchtime calories after the rule. But calories in purchases at three major chains—McDonald’s, KFC and Au Bon Pain—did drop, while only one chain sold more caloric choices. That was Subway, which introduced a $5 Foot-Long supersized option at the same time the rule went into effect. (For more on restaurant calorie counts, see story on page 1 of this issue.)

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