Wednesday, April 3, 2013

NRA - No the other one

    A nutrition study group with The National Restaurant Association will meet later this month to discuss several things, including nutrition labeling.  There are a few other agenda items that may interest you.  For instance, challenges the industry faces as they attempt to reduce sodium levels in foods and how to provide nutrition education to Hispanic Consumers (their words).  They will also discuss GMOs, or genetically modified foods.  I do not stay informed on that issue but I have several friends who are passionate about the need to provide GMO labels on products.  Some believe that GMOs are harmful and that people should avoid buying them. At the very least, they argue, people should know if their products contain them.  My food related focus is macronutrients and calories, so I push for expanded labeling in that area.
   Interestingly, I was recently asked to send a letter to some restaurants to encourage them to provide nutrition information to their customers. I did sign the form letter and one of the restaurants on the list responded to me directly (so to speak).  They let me know how important they believed nutrition information was to their customers.  Because of their committment to them, they provide all the nutrition info for their menu items on their WEBSITE.  Of course, I replied that it needed to be on the menu with the food so that people could see it while making decisions about their purchases.  There may be some discrepancies in the menu labeling research, but there is no question that information given outside of the restaurant is not as effective as information given inside at the point of decision making. 
    And lastly, a new study that used the traffic light system on restaurant menus has recently been published.  This experiment was done online.  People looked at make believe menus and reported what they would order.  It was not a field experiment and no real purchases were made.  Still, an interesting finding of this study is that too much information was no better than having no information (in regards to choosing the lower calorie meals).  The percent daily value statement was one of the unhelpful pieces of information.  AGREED.  The calorie only and the calorie with either green (400 or less calories), amber or red (more than 800) were both related to lower calorie choices.  The study was conducted in Australia and the lead author was Belinda Morely.

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