Not only is NYC's calorie-posting law annoying—who wants to be reminded that the drink they're about to order is not only overpriced but is packed with 400 calories, too?—it doesn't encourage people to eat (or drink) healthier either. Although nine in ten people who saw the calorie counts posted claimed they "made healthier choices as a result," when researchers at NYU and Yale "checked receipts afterward, they found that people had, in fact, ordered slightly more calories than the typical customer had before the labeling law went into effect, in July 2008."
So what can we learn from this little experiment?
"I think it does show us that labels are not enough," Brian Elbel, an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and the lead author of the study, said in an interview.
Not enough? Frankly, we're not sure what the good professor means by this. If posting the number of calories isn't enough to discourage people from ordering things they probably shouldn't be eating, does this mean he's suggesting the city consider taking more drastic steps? Maybe restaurants should be required to post pictures of what people will look like if they continue with their unhealthy diets, sort of the way some cheap Chinese restaurants post pictures of the dishes on their menus? Or maybe chains should be forced to install a scale in each of their locations, so we all have to pass a weight test before we're allowed to place our orders? We can't say we'd be too surprised if we find ourselves debating the merits of either one of those plans this time next year. Although any law that could potentially cut down on this terrible phenomenon should probably be encouraged, shouldn't it?