Calories on Menus

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From our Swindon Correspondent:

There’s some talk going around about the idea of restaurants having to, by law, put calories on menus.

So, why? What’s the benefit to the consumer? Well, we might say that it gives consumers more information. This doesn’t seem like a bad thing, but who has ever gone into a restaurant not knowing what the healthy and unhealthy stuff is? We already spend billions on education and public health telling people that deep fried pork balls are bad, and grilled chicken is better. That the fresh fruit salad with yoghurt is going to be better than the black forest gateau. Did this not work? Should we be cutting this spending because people need it spelt out in numbers?

Because this isn’t free. It’s the sort of information that suits restaurants that are quite industrial, like McDonalds and Subway. Everything’s prepared to a standard size and shipped in, so it’s not hard to calculate. What’s someone running a pub in Cornwall, who adapts their menu to the fish that are landed, of varying sizes to do? Spend their time figuring it all out from what they did when throwing it together at the grill? Do we want Men From The Ministry taking the dish and calculating the calories, and fining restaurateurs for their inaccuracy?

Can’t we just leave all of this to the market? Subway seem to have a marketing campaign based around how healthy many of their subs are, and they provide nutritional information to support this. If you really want to know how many calories you’re eating, go to Subway. If Bob’s Cafe doesn’t want to tell you how many calories are in his full english breakfast, go elsewhere.

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SpikeQuentin Voledodgy geezerMr WombyJohn Galt Recent comment authors
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Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Advertisements for olive oil have been banned on London Underground by Transport for London. The reason given is because olive oil contains a large amount of calories. In other words olive oil is rich in that which keeps us alive and without which we would all be dead. On the issue of restaurants listing calories on their menus, how are they accurately supposed to count them? On the continent most restaurants give the weight of the serving, of course this is generally inaccurate, except at restaurants that serve prepacked foods, in other words the not very good ones. No doubt… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

That the NUTRITION FACTS are often not factual is as minor a point as that the evolving mask mandates allow bandanas, fabric masks, and crocheted masks. It is not about achieving the goal but showing what side you are on.

The frequent reversals of government nutritional advice are best explained by the fact that the right to “petition the gov’t for redress of grievances” is most easily exercised by corporations.

Spike
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Spike

Hear hear! Even people who don’t want their decisions made for them at gunpoint are all right with full disclosure at gunpoint. Being fully informed is so unquestionably good that it justifies any means.

Of course there are costs. The business must learn about the mandate, communicate it to its workforce, comply with it (down to font and type size), document its compliance, and assign someone to study any changes to the rules. As always, established chains are geared up to do this; start-up competitors are not. Voilà, racket!

Mohave Greenie
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Mohave Greenie

I spent the New Year’s day holiday a few years ago putting calorie information on the menu board at my pizza franchise. Didn’t affect sales at all. Most people going out for fast food don’t pay any attention to the calorie information.

The good news on this mandate was that it only affected chains with more than a certain amount of stores. Mom and Pop restaurants weren’t bothered.

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

This experiment has already been carried out in New York and I don’t think anyone here will be surprised to here that it failed. As reported on the Freakonomics blog: “Some time ago, we wondered if New York City’s new law requiring certain restaurants to post calorie counts might provide good material for academic researchers who care about obesity. The answer: yes! Brian Elbel, an assistant professor of medicine and health policy at the NYU School of Medicine and the NYU Wagner School of Public Service, was the lead researcher on a new study called “Calorie Labeling and Food Choices:… Read more »

Boganboy
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Boganboy

I’m pleased that poor people got something out of it. But as far as I’m concerned, I judge by how much of a bother is it, how much does it cost and do I like it.

If I thought I was getting too fat, I’d just substitute Milo for solid food. I can’t see any point in my making catering for myself any more of a hassle than necessary.

John B
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John B

Cue… unintended consequences:

2 000 Calorie meal, £5,50
3 000 Calorie meal £3,75

Hungry people opting for highest calorie meal for best value for money.

And people chose food depending on taste, mood and fancy, not nutritional content per se.

But there comes a point, already surpassed, when there is so much noise that more noise just gets lost.

jgh
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jgh

Burger King have been labelling calories for decades, and that’s exactly what I use it for – maximise food, minimise expenditure, just as I did back at uni, working out that no-brand frosties gave the biggest food bang per buck, maximising the amount of my money I could spend on things *I* wanted to do rather than on just staying alive.

Mr Womby
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Mr Womby

The crazy thing is that most of the “junk food” outlets (McD’s, Pizza Hut, etc.) are already providing this information.

The picture at the top of the article shows a buffet restaurant: when the customer can help himself to whatever size portion he desires what useful information could the proprietor supply?

dodgy geezer
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dodgy geezer

That’s easy. “A 100gm serving contains N calories.”

But whether this is a useful action or not is a poinless question. The point of the proposal is to give PHE a justification for keeping their jobs. Nothing to do with health…

Mr Womby
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Mr Womby

Agreed, but then the customer needs to know the weight of the spoonful of food he’s just added to his plate. (Not to mention then doing the required calculation to determine the number of calories.)

dodgy geezer
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dodgy geezer

The serving spoon is 100g.

But you did not read my last point. The aim of this legislation is NOTHING to do with enabling people to count calories.

Mr Womby
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Mr Womby

My opinion of the usefulness of the proposal is similar to yours; like taking the knee’ at football matches it’s a pointless gesture that will achieve nothing. My original comment was intended to highlight the impracticality of the measure.

dodgy geezer
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dodgy geezer

Why is everybody commenting about mandatory calorie markings? Can’t you see that calories, or obesity, or health are NOTHING to do with the issue at all? What is going on here was precisely explained by the great C. Northcote Parkinson over 65 years ago. It is the standard expansion of a bureaucracy, once it has fulfilled its original remit, into any new area which will enable it to continue to justify its existence. If it were not overeating it would be staying out in the sun too long, or not enough, or wearing trousers too tightly… – ANYTHING that the… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

They are doing! as the next Big Thing is “guidance” that local governments mandate face masks, 6 weeks after the end of the epidemic; focus on minor “hot spots” with the junk claim they were caused by too-rapid liberalization; and, after doubling testing, claims that a doubling of “cases” means it is still a State of Emergency, as it will be until the morning after 3-Nov.

HJ777
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HJ777

I never look at the calorie count for any food – and I am not in the slightest bit overweight.

I do know a number of people, however, who are overweight, and they do look at calorie counts.

Perhaps this demonstrates that giving people calorie information males them fat?

The Mole
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The Mole

I wonder what would happen if a small restaurant chose just to ’round up’ all the calories for all its dishes to some arbitrary amount “750 Calories* … actual value may be lower”. Would be cheap to implement (is this effectively banning specials) and if they are overquoting would be hard to prosecute for… even if its completely pointless to the consumer

Spike
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Spike

Who’s talking “prosecution”? That implies innocence-until-proven-guilty and the right to defend yourself and even confront your accuser (there would have to be an accuser). They’d get FINED by the relevant agency, just as though they had used the wrong typeface.

John Galt
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The most irritating thing is when you’ve got a single serving pre-packed meal like tuna salad or something which is, say 330g and the breakdown of calorific information is either per 100g or per “serving” (which is never the entire tiny packet, but usually 1/3rd of it which is idiotic). Sure, it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to multiply the per 100g by 3.3, but that is beyond the capabilities of the vast majority of the barely literate who are the ones that struggle with obesity. It’s almost as if it were designed to create jobs for Tarquin and… Read more »

dodgy geezer
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dodgy geezer

Who doesn’t know what unhealthy food is? ALL of us.

Diets for losing weight are theories. None have been shown to unambiguously work in practice. Every so often we get a new fad.

Boris’s diet for the UK is NOT ‘accepted science’ . There is none in this field. Indeed, according to some theories, it may cause more health problems than it solves….

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

There’s nothing theoretical in stating that if you reduce your calorie intake and/or increase your exercise, you will lose weight. The tricky thing (where most ‘diets’ fail) is to find a regime that allows you to retain your new, lower weight indefinitely.

Spike
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Spike

All things being the same, your statement is true. But another tricky thing is holding all things the same; for instance, devising a way to resist incipient late-evening cravings.