McDonald's, the world's largest and most popular fast-food chain, has announced that, starting as early as next week, it will start listing calorie information on its menus in nearly 14,000 restaurants and drive-thrus across the United States.
This welcome move comes on the eve of a crucial vote on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial proposal to ban super-sized colas at local restaurants and, more pertinently, ahead of the introduction of a national health law that will mandate restaurants, with 20 or more locations, to mention calories and other nutrition details on their menus.
The state of California and cities like New York already require restaurants to clearly list calorie information on the menus but many major chains have ignored the call, in the absence of legislation and threat of fines.
Requiring to post calorie counts of Big Macs and french fries is one of many measures US officials are contemplating as they seek to combat the burgeoning obesity crisis.
The problems of overweight people and obesity have worsened sharply in the US since the 1980s with the result that America is today called one of the fattest nations on earth – two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese as are a third of the children.
Obesity increases the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic illnesses.
McDonald's has been vilified for refusing to assess the impact of its foods on childhood obesity.
McDonald’s has responded to any criticism by claiming that it has incorporated changes to its menu, introducing more fruits and vegetables, reducing the French fry portion by more than half and including apples in Happy Meals for children.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued two proposed regulations that would ensure calorie labeling on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines with 20 or more locations.
But the million-dollar question is: Does calorie labeling help diners make informed choices?
No, according to a New York University study which found that menu labeling, which came into force in March 2011, has had no impact on consumers' food choices. Even 18 months after the rule took effect, there's no discernible change in the food habits.
Taste almost always triumphed over calories!
Do you think McDonald's has done the right thing, or is there something more it can do? Please leave your comments below.