Yesterday, I blogged about the McKinsey discussion paper that calls on governments to throw everything they’ve got at the obesity epidemic – proven or unproven – anything is better than nothing.
That said, it is indeed timely that this week, the US-FDA announced sweeping regulations on putting calories on menus, not just in fastfood restaurants but also in grocery stores, vending machines, and movie theatres.
Personally, I am all for it – never mind that we have yet to show that providing this information at the point of purchase actually changes behaviour of the target population (namely the people who do need to watch their calories) – I, for one, do find this information helpful.
Thus, every time I visit a McDonalds restaurant (yes, I do), I study the nutritional information that this restaurant chain has been making available to any customer who bothers to ask for decades.
Indeed, I do admit to deriving a kind of voyeuristic pleasure in seeing those astonishingly high numbers on certain food items and cannot help myself from inwardly shaking my head at the poor schmucks who order those foods.
What I do wonder, however, is whether knowing these numbers has ever actually changed my own behaviour.
Take movie popcorn for instance – I love it! (interestingly this is a habit that I only developed since moving to Canada).
Not that I am not aware that a large popcorn can easily have all the calories I need for the rest of the weekend – yup, I know that – indeed, I am making an “informed choice”.
In the few milliseconds I spend thinking about whether or not I may wish to skip the popcorn this time, those calorie numbers do regularly flash through my mind – in the end, the popcorn always wins.
So how will having the numbers up on the menu board staring in my face change things for me?
My guess is that I’ll still buy the popcorn, except now it will come with an even larger portion of guilt than before.
Obviously, with the numbers up there for everyone to see (including the people in line behind me), there may well now be an added tinge of embarrassment on top of the guilt.
Well, I may not be the typical consumer or even the target of these measures – after all these are meant for the people who could obviously do with some nudging towards eating a healthier diet (not really sure why I am excluding myself from this list).
Yet, I don’t mind these measures, I have always considered this a good idea.
But will having these numbers staring me in the face everytime I eat out change my consumption of popcorn? Probably not.
Will they make me think thrice (I already think twice)? Perhaps.
So to sum up, funnily enough, I find myself in full support of this measure – even if I am not really sure why.
I guess anything is better than nothing.