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Kids Unfazed by Fast-Food Calorie Labels

NEW YORK—Calorie labeling on menus does little to influence the purchasing behavior of teenagers or what parents buy for the children, according to a new study published online in the International Journal of Obesity. The findings reveal taste is the most-important factor considered by teens when ordering fast-food items.

Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center compared receipts and surveys from 427 parents and teenagers at fast-food restaurants before and after mandatory labeling began in July 2008. They focused on lower income communities in New York City and used Newark, N.J., as a comparison because it does not required labeling. Data was collected before labeling began, and one month after labeling laws went into effect.

Before mandatory labeling, none of the teens in the study noticed calorie information in the restaurant; however, 57 percent in New York and 18 percent in Newark noticed the calorie information after labeling began. According to the findings, 9 percent said the information influenced their choices, and all of the teens used the information to purchase fewer calories. Twenty-nine percent of adults said the labeling influenced their choice.

Taste was the most important reason teens bought a fast-food item, while price was a consideration for more than 50 percent. About 25 percent said they limited the amount of food they ate to control their weight. The study also reported that most teenagers underestimated the amount of calories they had purchased, some by up to 466 calories.

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