Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Restaurant Menu Food Calorie Declarations – Not What You Think?

Big Mac Calorie CountToday’s Wall Street Journal reported that “Calorie Disclosures Fail to Weigh Whole Enchilada” siting that many food items that were tested for actual calorie counts came in higher than what was recorded on the menu for consumers.  For example, they reported that Applebee’s Cajun lime tilapia tested at 401 calories, but the menu only showed 310 calories.  Taco Bell’s fresco bean burrito tested at 449 calories but the menu only showed 330 calories.  There were other examples.

You know what is interesting?  Non of the tests reported showed actual test results that were LOWER in calories than the calories shown on the menu.

Now, this could mean several things:  1)  The WSJ is showing a bias in its reporting and only reporting on data that supports its story  or 2) the restaurants are gaming the system by sending in smaller portion sizes for testing or 3) the restaurants are choosing to report lower numbers on their menus than what the testing results show or 4) the study is not scientific and the sample size and method of sampling is inaccurate – not reflecting the true story.

Numbers are only numbers and it is hard to draw a conclusion without accurate and complete information.  These examples came from a very small sampling, chosen by Scripps television stations, sent to testing labs for analysis.   The WSJ reported that Scripps sent “several” menu items and that “big deviations” from posted calorie content were found in “most of them” making menu items appear healthier than they are.

For us as the consumer, to be able to trust the numbers we need to know if they are “fair”.  Having taken a statistics course many years ago (although I admit I’ve forgotten most of what I’ve learned), I do remember that the sample size is important and that it must be randomly selected.   From the information given in the WSJ article, I don’t think we can draw any conclusions from their tests — in other words, we can’t say, with confidence, that the majority of restaurants are misreporting their calorie contents.  We just don’t have enough information.

Another unlikely scenario is there being a conspiracy among the majority of restauranteurs to misreport their calorie contents.  I personally believe that people are honest and yes, there are people behind big business.  It is hard to get a group to do anything consistently and to think that the majority of restaurants misreport does not seem likely to me.

The bottom line:  don’t believe everything you read.  Consider the source and the motivation behind why they are reporting what they do.  Use a little critical thinking and come to your own conclusions.  Discount the results if they don’t hold up.

  1. This is silly………..you mean you didn’t know fast food was bad for you. It started out 50 years ago as a treat at the county fair or once a month on a family outing. PEOPLE it’s not meant to be eaten as all 3 squares 24/7 365. Were have the American brains gone……….down the toilet with the garbage food they consume and their political believes. GIVE ME A LARGE ONE

    If you are dining out at t a oh let’s say a fine dining establishment like a French Restaurant what do you think you will find in most of your food……BUTTER but of course. Goose liver snails and puppy dog tails. Do we need the meal broken down on what amount of fat and salt you are intaking……..there goes the fun of a nice night out and a wonderful tasting meal. Ah but the good old Government has their hands in other peoples pockets, brains and right to breath/breed and die. WELCOME BIG BROTHER wake up people this might not seem like a big deal oh but it is.

    Wake up human race before we are all dead or puppets.

  2. I, for one, actually use the calorie information to make wise food choices when I go out. It is there for you to use or not. You still have free will.

    But, your point about “big brother” is for those edicts that force you to do something against your free will, based on other people’s values. Well, I can see why these edicts are put into place. It is because of people that are not responsible for the common good of all.

    The problem I have with “freedom of choice”, regarding your right to eat yourself to death with bad food choices, is that the rest of us who watch our diets have to pay for your bad choices. I am being responsible and you are not. I will end up having to pay for higher health insurance rates because your bad health will raise my rates. You are forcing me to pay for your health bills down the road when you develop diabetes or can’t walk any longer, etc. and lose your job and go on Medicaid.

    I am appalled by the number of overweight people in this country.

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