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Knowing Your Taco Is a Calorie Bomb Won't Stop You From Ordering It

Mandatory calorie counts on menus will be required by the health care bill, but at Seattle-area Taco Time restaurants they didn't have much effect.

In March, fast food customers will start seeing mandatory calorie-counting signs posted on menus, as part of last year's health care reform. The new signs coincide with research that suggests more information about the caloric content of cheeseburgers, quesadillas, and breakfast sandwiches doesn't actually change behavior.

Researchers at Duke University's Global Health Institute recently compared choices at several Seattle-area Taco Time restaurants before and after mandatory calorie counting went into effect in 2009. They also compared those choices against the ones made at Taco Times outside King Country's jurisdiction (which doesn't have mandated nutrition labeling).

The study was published this week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, and as Scientific American reports:

After a year of looking at the labels Taco Time consumers were still not persuaded to ditch more of their beef Roma burritos (843 calories) in favor of regular chicken salads (196 calories)—overall order calorie totals (including sides and drinks) stayed relatively stable.


Eric Finklestein, one of the study's authors, says Taco Time already had simple logos identifying the healthiest foods, which may have been all customers who were looking for healthy options wanted to see. In other words, the additional calorie and nutrition information may have been information overload. He also suggested one sure-fire way to change buying habits. "I'm not sure I'm in favor of taxing fast food," Finklestein told Scientific American, "but I'm sure it would work."

Photo by Flickr user (cc) Roxanne Cooke.

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