chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus starting in 2013. Similar laws have been enacted already on a state or local basis in several jurisdictions, but it’s only now that the policy is going national that it really makes sense for companies to start building strategic decisions around it.
That corporate decision-making is the key to whether the new rule drives meaningful gains in public health. If chains continue to emphasize maximum fat at minimum cost, eating habits probably won’t change much. But if the labeling regulations really emphasize the dangers of high-fat foods and the benefits of fruits and vegetables, it could encourage healthier eating.
The giants that dominate the chain restaurant market are adjusting to menu labeling, too. McDonalds, smartly, decided to get ahead of the curve by launching menu labeling even before the election so the company could start the learning process before the competition. They’re also touting a “Favorites Under 400” list of low-calorie options. Tellingly, packaged-food giant Unilever promoted a Seductive Nutrition Challenge over the summer to encourage restaurateurs to try to reformulate existing menu favorites into lower-calorie versions.
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