McDonald’s is going to start posting calorie counts for all of its products on menu boards starting the week of September 16, 2012. The company is getting ahead of the curve on the Affordable Care Act regulation that requires national restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the act in June 2012, McDonald’s decided to act. The chain already posts calorie counts at its locations in California, Philadelphia, and New York city.
Other fast food establishments do post calorie counts. Subway and Panera Bread Company have calorie counts on their menus. The regulation to post counts may go into effect early next year, which will force other chains such as Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King to comply. McDonald’s has had nutrition information available on request and on their website.
Consumers are in favor of labeling and transparency in the food they eat. But most evidence shows that knowing the number of calories in a food usually does not affect consumer choice. Furthermore, a study conducted last year at Tuft’s University found that some calorie counts posted in restaurants are inaccurate. Researchers found that while most counts were about 10 calories lower than the actual calorie measurement of the food, 19% of samples had more than 100 more calories than claimed. One item had at least 1,000 more calories than the restaurant claimed.
But that same study found that fast food calorie counts were more accurate than the counts posted at sit-down restaurants. That may be because fast food food preparation is very controlled and portioned out by machines, while sit-down restaurant food is prepared by individual chefs.