From Vending Market Watch/Pittsburgh Business Times –
CMU research says calorie counts on vending machines won’t improve choices
January 2, 2014 Justine Coyne
In an effort to help Americans make healthier choices when it comes to snacking, new labeling regulations included in the Affordable Care Act will require vending machines to display calorie information starting in 2014.
The problem is, research from Carnegie Mellon University shows menu labeling doesn’t appear the reduce consumption, even when consumers are given guidance for how many calories they should be eating.
“There have been high hopes that menu labeling could be a key tool to help combat high obesity levels in this country, and many people do appreciate having that information available,” Julie Downs, associate research professor of social and decision sciences in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t appear to be helping to reduce consumption very much, even when we give consumers what policymakers thought might help: some guidance for how many calories they should be eating.”
And for the vending machine industry, the changes aren’t going to be cheap. According to an Associated Press report, the new regulations, which will be displayed on about 5 million vending machines across the country, are estimated to cost the vending machine industry $25.8 million initially to implement, and $24 million annually after that. The Food and Drug Administration is also working on final rules that require restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to post calorie information.
The research conducted by Downs and her team, which looked at the purchase behaviors of over 1,000 lunchtime diners at McDonalds, showed there was no interaction between the use of calorie recommendations and the pre-existing menu labels.
“People who count calories know that this is a pretty labor-intensive exercise,” Downs said. “Making the information available on menus may have other beneficial effects, such as motivating restaurants to change their formulations. But it may be unrealistic to expect many consumers to keep such close, numeric track of their food intake by using the labels directly.”