Nearly every chain restaurant has a calorie count next to their menu items so that customers are more aware of how much they are eating. Any restaurant with twenty or more locations is required by law to provide nutrition labeling for standard menu items. However, there have been reports of inaccurate calorie counts that differ from their advertised amount.
A 2011 study by Stanford Business School showed that posting calorie counts on the menu led to a reduction in the consumption of food at Starbucks. These nutritional facts led customers to opt for foods with lower calories. The purpose of the laws requiring calorie contents of menu items is to combat the rising obesity rates by making the public more self aware of how much food they are actually consuming and thus causing them to eat less. In the 2008 Health and Diet Survey, 49% of participants changed their minds in buying a certain food after reading its nutritional value.
Although the Food and Drug Administration requires calorie listings on packaged foods and menu items, there is no one who verifies if the numbers are accurate. Because no one checks if the calorie listings are correct, restaurant chains are not penalized for posting inaccurate calorie counts leading much of the nutrition facts on foods to be incorrect.
“Personally, I don’t care too much about inaccurate calorie counts on foods because I don’t watch what I eat. However, I can see how this would affect some people who are very strict on eating healthy and knowing how much they eat every single day.” said Christopher Martinez, a junior at Fairfax High School, in an interview with JSR.
In a YouTube video, “The Truth Behind Calorie Labels”, filmmaker Casey Neistat documents the process of measuring the amount of calories in food as well as how the foods advertised calories differed from their actual count.
Some foods’ calorie counts ー such as the Starbucks coffee frappuccino with whipped cream ー- was 20 calories over its declared count. Calorie counts of other foods such as a packaged “healthy” tofu sandwich found in grocery stores were almost double than the amount of calories on the label.
If there is currently a system in place to require calorie labels so that people can eat healthier, there should also be a system that makes sure those numbers are accountable.