by Marion Nestle
Aug 13 2012

Think pizza should list calories? Sign on.

Remember menu labeling?

The Affordable Care Act (now ruled constitutional) instituted national menu labeling—the posting of calories on the menu boards of fast food chains.

The FDA still has not issued final rules, leaving vast amounts of time for lobbying and pushback.

Now John Carter (Rep-TX) has introduced HR 6174, the anything but “Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2012.”

This bill was introduced under lobbying pressure from the pizza and supermarket industries.

Its purpose is to exempt supermarkets and convenience stores from having to post calorie information on prepared foods.  This would allow pizza chains to list calories per serving, thereby defeating the entire purpose of the menu labeling law.

The pizza industry learned that it could get Congress to do what it wanted.  Even a dab of tomato paste on pizza now counts as a vegetable serving in school meals.

If you thing calorie labeling on pizza might be a good idea, now is the time to write your congressional representatives.  Here’s how.

Comments

  • Howard
  • August 13, 2012
  • 9:32 am

Anything that requires a label is probably not food.

  • Emma
  • August 13, 2012
  • 12:29 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I love pizza– my homemade kind, anyway, which is loaded with vegetables and not with cheese. But this is nuts.

  • sara
  • August 13, 2012
  • 2:04 pm

I’m confused. Wouldn’t it be appropriate for pizza chains to list calories per slice or per serving?? I don’t typically sit down and eat a whole large pizza, so it would make more sense for me to add up calories per slice rather than dividing the number of calories in a pizza by the number of slices and adding up from there. Or am I missing something??

Per serving doesn’t mean it’s per slice. Per serving could be determined by a standard weighted amount which could be smaller than the slice they serve at their chain store. I’m not all that familiar with the details but the whole purpose of this menu labeling with calories is to help consumers not confuse them. Confusing them would indeed defeat the whole purpose of calorie labeling.
I definitely wrote to my senator about this. Especially about the whole tomato paste in the sauce counting as a vegetable serving for school lunches. That really hits a nerve for me.

Of course pizza should be the same as the other restaurants. Thanks for the link!!

  • IRememberWhen
  • August 13, 2012
  • 3:20 pm

The studies on this have been done – calorie labeling doesn’t work. At best you get a weak effect on behavior, not enough to justify the effort.

Folks just don’t change their behavior this easily – food choices are driven more deeply than at the mere information level. Once you’re in the toxic food environment of a pizza place, you’re already doomed. To be frank.

People already know pizza is a high-fat, high-cal food.They know they shouldn’t eat it. But they’ve “decided” to eat it (or been overwhelmed by the food cues carefully placed to undermine them). Knowing the exact numbers doesn’t dissuade them from ordering it, and doesn’t cause them to adjust what they eat the rest of the day. Numbers on a board aren’t adequate to overcome the food cues put in place by advertising and food area design.

“Six studies were identified that met the selection criteria for this review. Results from five of these studies provide some evidence consistent with the hypothesis that calorie information may influence food choices in a cafeteria or restaurant setting. However, results from most of these studies suggest the effect may be weak or inconsistent…..

…A sample of adults who eat at fast food restaurants regularly 57.9% rated nutrition as very important or somewhat important when selecting foods from a fast food restaurant. In contrast, 96.1%, 89.6% and 87.2% rated taste, convenience, and price as important or very important, respectively.”

http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/5/1/51

The toxic food environment is real, and that’s what needs to be directly addressed. Why waste time with labeling? The marketing and food cues that cause people to wrongly believe that fast food “tastes better,” “is more convenient,” or is “cheaper than cooking at home” need to be dealt with first.

  • Sara
  • August 13, 2012
  • 5:00 pm

IRememberWhen,
I have read the same study as you and agree. The results are unfortunate. But I still think that people have a right to know how many calories are in the foods that they may or may not choose to order, whether at a restaurant OR at a Whole Foods sandwich bar.

  • Anthro
  • August 13, 2012
  • 5:33 pm

Marion, are the studies mentioned by “IRememberWhen” the final word as to the value of calorie labeling?

Even if it is true that people don’t care, over time there might be a greater effect, especially as we continue to work on the whole obesity epidemic problem.

I know that I would appreciate this information. My hope is that it will lead to smaller portions such as the mini donuts and mini scones, etc., at Starbuck’s–which were added about the time they started posting calories.

  • IRememberWhen
  • August 13, 2012
  • 6:21 pm

Hi Anthro:

“smaller portions such as the mini donuts and mini scones”

It’s not the size of the food item, interestingly enough. It’s the size of the *plate*. Most people judge portion sizes by a relative comparison to the plate, it seems. If the scones are small, people will just have 2.

But serve the mini-scone on a teeny-tiny plate so it appears to fill the plate up – now you’re talking. Larger plates increase portion sizes *exponentially*!!!!!!

“Portion size changes exponentially with any change in plate diameter. . .Results indicate that a small increase in dishware size can lead to a substantial increase in energy available to be consumed, particularly if food is energy dense. This reinforces the need to consider dishware size when developing strategies to prevent over-consumption.”

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666311006064

Localities should consider regulating plate and portion sizes for fast food – just as they regulate the sizes and kinds of alcohol that can be served in various establishments. Super-sizing should be banned; “regular” portions must be downsized and re-plated.

The obesity crisis will soon cost society more than alcoholism; therefore it deserves the same kind of robust regulation as alcohol, perhaps even more so, based on the level of harm!

  • Beth
  • August 14, 2012
  • 10:38 am

“Super-sizing should be banned,’regular’ portions must be downsized” I agree, but we see how that worked out in New York. Food marketing companies will fight that tooth and nail, and they will get the American public to fight the battle for them. Too many people are more concerned about who wins “American Idol” than what they feed their families.

  • IRememberWhen
  • August 14, 2012
  • 2:08 pm

Hi Beth:

“Food marketing companies will fight that tooth and nail, and they will get the American public to fight the battle for them.”

Of course. The battle over sugar & fast food will be even more fierce than the tobacco fight, because there is literally about 20x more money at stake.

We know that in advance, but does that mean we should abandon the fight?

ANY food or beverage MUST list calories!
However, it is even MORE important to put the single calories- figure into relation!! In fact, a single day lasts 24 hours and that the PERSONAL Daily Total Energy Expenditure (PTDEE) differs from person to person!!
The key to defeat obesity is to change this situation: almost the TOTALITY of the world community doesn’t know the own personal PTDEE!
This is the topic we cover, among others, in our book: “Eating healthy and dying obese, elucidation of an apparent paradox”.
http://www.vitasanas.ch/wp/?page_id=370
Best regards,
Leoluca Criscione
Obesity Researcher

  • Terry
  • August 16, 2012
  • 7:46 am

I was just at my local ASDA (UK-based subsidiary of Walmart) and I was looking at the chocolate section. I noticed that on their 30p bar of basic ASDA-brand chocolate they had the traffic light label with lots of reds displayed prominently on the front. However, on the £1 ASDA-brand, not-so-basic chocolate, they didn’t. I was wondering if anyone else had seen any examples of selective application of the traffic light system (or US equivalents) within the same brand?

I figure that they were trying to use the information to push people away from their basic chocolate (which they continue to sell in order to make claims about low prices and compete in the supermarket price wars), to their more expensive chocolate.

I realise that the above is an anecdote and a hunch, but it’s always interesting to look at the tactics that actors use.

If the Center for Science in the Public Interest is pushing for this, its a pretty good indication that its a pointless and wrongheaded policy.

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at the FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

[...] federal menu labeling as the final regulations are stalled at FDA, while certain industry members fight it. We also no longer see states or cities taking up the issue, figuring the feds took care of it. [...]

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