Legislation forcing New York restaurants to put calorie information on their menus is leading to diners making healthier choices, Government research has revealed.
In July 2008, New York became the first US city to require chain restaurants to post calorie counts in large type on menu boards.
To analyse the impact of the legislation, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioned research of more than 10,000 customers at 275 locations in early 2007 and another 12,000 this year.
Preliminary findings from the research show that people chose food with fewer calories at nine of the 13 fast-food and coffee chains, with "significant" decreases at four chains, McDonald's, Au Bon Pain, KFC and Starbucks.
More than half of those surveyed said they had noticed the calorie information on menus. Those diners who saw and acted on calorie information bought food containing 106 fewer calories on average than those who did not notice the postings.
Lynn Silver, assistant commissioner for New York's Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, said: "Dietary change is likely to come gradually; it will start with consumers interested in making informed, healthy eating decisions and we hope industry will respond by offering more healthier choices and appropriate portion sizes."
A number of UK restaurants and caterers are trialling the display of calorie information on their menus as part of a scheme launched by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in April. Although the initiative is voluntary, the FSA has admitted it could become compulsory if take-up is too slow.
By Daniel Thomas
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