- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
When food calorie content was posted on menu boards at Kaiser Hospital cafeterias, a significant number of patrons altered their food choices, according to a pilot menu labeling study conducted by UC Berkeley researchers.
The results are compelling because the California menu labeling bill (SB 1420), which requires chain restaurants to put calorie counts on menu boards, goes into full effect next year.
In the Kaiser pilot study, more than 500 patrons completed cafeteria exit surveys. Nearly a third of respondents who noticed the calorie information said they changed their food choices as a result. Nearly all of them agreed that calorie information should be available and 80 percent said they felt Kaiser was helping them look after their health by providing calorie and nutrient information.
The researchers also analyzed the food on patrons' trays - either by observation or by scrutinizing cash register receipts. They determined that food purchases in cafeterias where the labeling was introduced sold significantly more healthy side dishes, but little change was seen in entreé selections.
Eleven percent of the survey respondents indicated that there are potential disadvantages to having calorie information posted in the cafeterias, the research report said.
"The most common disadvantage cited was guilt from ordering high-calorie foods," it reported.The pilot study was conducted by the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, the College of Natural Resources and the School of Public Health, all at UC Berkeley.
Click here for the 33-page research report.