Why Calorie Labeling in Fast Food Location isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

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By: Jenna Wallace

Despite the Food and Drug Administration’s best intents, calorie labeling in fast food chains isn’t affecting the population the way we would hope. Although the labeling is intended to inform consumers of calorie content and help them making more informed nutrition decisions, it is ultimately ineffective in these endeavors. For the labeling to truly make an effect on the population there are some criteria that must be met. Consumers must desire a healthier lifestyle and must be knowledgeable amount proper daily calorie requirement1. This way, the labeling must shock them due to the disparity between what they assumed the caloric content was, and what it actually is1. Additionally, the labeling needs to be readily visible to consumers, meaning consumers must be made aware of it and it must specifically get to regular consumers of fast food1.

As you may be able to see, there are clear issues with current fast food calorie labeling. Unfortunately, regular consumers of fast food are less likely to be concerned with a healthier lifestyle1. This is a clear contradiction in the requirements of success of this labeling. Beyond this initial issue, much of the labeling in fast food locations is not catching the eye of any consumer, as many consumers are unaware of the presence of calorie labeling1. Finally, there must be some level of shock or disgust when the consumer reads a label and notices the immense calories in, say a burger. However, since the FDA now requires these labels, as of December 1st, many chains have been encouraged to simply lower the calorie quantity of menu items1. While this may sound promising, this doesn’t not mean that menu items are now healthier just because they have fewer calories.


In future legislature, new more adaptive techniques need to be put in place to help reduce obesity. Clearly, while with good intent, calorie labeling in fast food chains just isn’t that effective. For the most part, when a consumer enters a fast food chain, they are looking for fast, cheap, and tasty, not healthy. One step in the right direction would be to put more regulations on the farms where these chains source their ingredients. Legislature is important in this aspect due to its wide-reaching effect.

As far as the consumer is concerned, the best approach is to become more educated. Consult a dietitan about how many calories you should be consuming per day. Make primarily healthy choices throughout the week, only relying on fast food locations as a last resort rather than a consistent ordeal. When at these locations, be an educated consumer and look or ask for calorie and nutrition information for the menu items. Try to choose the closest to real food on the menu as possible, with little processing. Through education, consumers can become more informed and make decisions that are healthier for themselves and their family.


  1. Fast-food calorie labeling unlikely to encourage healthy eating, finds study. Science Direct website. October 20, 2016. Accessed December 14, 2016.

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