As the problem of obesity continues to persist in the U.S., the government has been trying to implement policies that will help Americans make healthier food choices. For example, the Federal health reform law passed in March 2010 requires restaurants with 20 or more locations to provide calorie information and nutritional facts on their menus.
However, according to researchers from Columbia University, even while fast foods restaurants have been meeting these Federal labeling requirements, these labels don’t seem to be affecting consumers’ decisions. The scientists state that this is because the labels can often be confusing and require complicated math to understand.
“Menu postings for individual servings are easily understood, but complex math skills are needed to interpret meals designed to serve more than one person. In some items, calories doubled depending on flavor, and the calorie posting did not give enough information to make healthier selections,” said study authors.
For example, the researchers cited one restaurant where they found that a bucket of chicken was listed as having 3,240 to 12,360 calories, but the label provided no information regarding how many pieces of chicken equaled one serving.
The scientists concluded by saying that these labels will only be effective if they can be understood more easily.