Weighty changes made easy

healthy-food-stocksA quick question: How many kilojoules have you consumed so far today? What about the number of kilojoules you consumed at breakfast? Even an estimate will do. Most of us wouldn’t have a clue.

An analysis conducted by Jason Block from Harvard Medical School found that found that that “adolescents underestimated their meals by about 250 calories (1,050kj). Adults were off by about 175 calories (730kj) on average, but one quarter thought their meals had nearly 500 calories (2,090kj) less than they actually contained.” Just to put that into context, the recommended daily allowance for a mostly sedentary, but healthy adult, who is 180cm tall, and currently weights 77kg, would be 8900kj.

So, the obvious response would be to post kilojoule counts with the food, so that people know how much they are consuming. It seems logical and highly rational. Give consumers information and those with the motivation to change will use that information.

Kilojoule estimates are now commonplace in fast-food shops, along with kilojoule intakes on packaging of most prepared and processed foods in the supermarket. The overwhelming support by Australians for a compulsory health star rating system suggests that, for most of us, labeling makes sense.

And research is showing that this labeling does have some impact on consumer decision-making, but there are still many questions about what type of labeling does and doesn’t work, and on whom.

For example, in a study that looked at 100 million transactions at Starbucks in New York City, Boston and Philadelphia, those stores that had calorie labeling next to their food saw a significant calorie reduction (6 per cent) from those without. In a different study, researchers found that the posting of calories in particular restaurants such as McDonald’s and KFC did result in a significant, but small, reduction in the calories consumed in these restaurants. The same study, however, also found evidence of the “halo effect”, in that people also ate more calories at Subway than any other chain, because of their belief that the food was healthier and therefore lower calorie.

Other research has shown that most people have trouble calculating nutrition information with respect to serving size and recommended amounts (per cent daily values), hence the call for a simpler labeling system such as the health star rating. Researchers in this field continue to try to understand at a more detailed level why some interventions work, while others don’t. This is nothing out of the ordinary – science is constantly refining findings.

A 2014 study published in the journal, BioMed Central, highlighted the potential for exercise equivalents as a guide to calorie counts and those unaware of the negative health implications in consuming fast food. So, instead of esoteric kilojoule counts, such as 4800kj (Whopper Value Meal), 4897kj (medium Big Mac Value Meal) or 3780kj (Ultimate Burger Meal), that require you to draw upon both your calculating knowledge, and your memory of everything you have eaten so far today, you would be confronted with something more concrete like 55 minutes of sprinting (Whopper Value Meal), or a 75 minute game of squash (Big Mac Value Meal), or, perhaps 70 minutes of fast swimming (Ultimate Burger Meal). And yes, these are estimates, but so are the kilojoule counts.

study published last month in the Journal of Marketing Research, takes this idea of more concrete information in a slightly different direction, and shows that the inclusion in the menu of an unhealthy label, such as “this food has an above average level of fat or sugar”, plus a price surcharge, such as a fat tax, has a significant effect on the ordering behaviour of consumers in a restaurant, in comparison to a menu that has one of them, or none.

Avni Shah and her colleagues at Duke University in the US found that making the price increase (the tax) explicit and framing it as a penalty for choosing unhealthy food encouraged people to make healthier choices. It doesn’t prevent them from eating food high in sugar and fat if they want to, it simply gives them a more informed perspective when making their choices.

This approach shouldn’t be too controversial, it is exactly what businesses also do – provide you with the information that they believe will get you to buy their product.

What all of these findings tell us is that the provision of information is helpful, but it has to make sense to the person processing that information. A few years ago, when speaking at an ASIC annual forum, I told the financial and consumer regulators present something that is constantly reinforced by research; that information on its own isn’t enough to change behaviour.

For people to change, they need that information to be direct, immediate and personal. Any information that requires calculation, additional effort, or is hypothetical, such as “this may happen to you”, results in people delaying thinking about it and acting upon it. For many people, kilojoule counts on their own are too abstract, complex and removed from reality.

What this new research is telling us is that, in addition to kilojoule counts, people need relevant information that has an impact on their decision-making. Otherwise, they will respond to their automatic responses and eat the food that we have evolved to be drawn toward – food that is high in fat, sugar and salt.

Of course it is cultural engineering to help people make choices, but we intervene all the time for the broader safety and good of society. You don’t get to choose what side of the road you drive on or the speed that you would like to travel. That’s what governments do; they intervene to modify behaviour when there is risk to the community. That isn’t “nanny state-ism”, it’s just what elected officials are meant to do.

There is no doubt that the obesity epidemic – and it is an epidemic, with three in five Australians overweight or obese – is one of the gravest health risks facing us. Obesity is a risk factor for a range of conditions including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, some musculoskeletal conditions, infertility, stroke, and some cancers. All of these have an impact on families, on workplaces and more broadly, our way of life (and yes, that includes the economy).

The substantial rise in overweight and obese Australians suggests that doing nothing, blaming individuals for their behaviour or telling people to simply eat less and exercise more, doesn’t seem to be working.

If the framing of information that has been shown to have an influence on behaviour is an example of a nanny state, then every major corporation seems to be behaving like a nanny.

I’m not suggesting that we remove freedom of choice, I am simply suggesting that we provide people with the right kind of information so that they can make better choices.

An edited version of this article was published in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald on 24 January, 2015. Twitter @iampaulharrison


18 thoughts on “Weighty changes made easy

  1. Hi Paul,

    A good article and I believe you are right, foods and packaging do need to be clear, simple, consistent and understandable in order to increase awareness around the quality of products we buy and consume.

    Australia (and quite possibly other developed countries) has fallen into the trap of creating one system to clearly outline the ingredients, nutritional value and so on but then clever marketing has created symbols and buzz words to imply that the product is something quite the opposite and instead of restricting this they have then created a layering effect of confusion for the consumer.

    Below is a link to an extract from the series ‘The Checkout’ that I believe conveys this effectively..

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Hi Paul,
    Great article and very topical. You have certainly made good points about how much – or rather how little – many consumers know about what it is they are consuming. As a health professional, and in my clinical days a Dietitian, it was common to see how people underestimated how much they were in fact consuming. My counseling also reinforced that fact they knew what they probably shouldn’t be eating but nevertheless …

    While the placement of the energy or kJ value of major food choices goes someway toward helping people make better food choices, it can often be the smaller snack size food choices that can bring many people undone with regard to their total daily kJ intake. I am talking about things like the biscuits, sweets, chocolates and drinks people choose to supplement their meals with. It’s almost as if these items, because they are so small or they are liquid, don’t really count for much. In reality, they can be quite kJ dense and add up to a lot of extra kJ without really taking up sufficient volume in their stomachs to prevent them from overdoing it on these items. A boost juice can easily have the equivalent kJ as a more substantial meal of real food, but is often used as a drink alongside a meal and is considered a healthy choice by many consumers.

    While there is nothing unhealthy about a boost juice, it does point to another area of the growing obesity problem that has been more difficult to influence – at least politically. That is the food industry themselves. Many foods are being marketed in such a way as to convince consumers they are healthy, whereas in fact they can be deceptively high in kJ. They know their consumers want to make healthy choices, and they probably also know that many of their consumers don’t really understand how to balance to overall kJ intake. The food industry isn’t all that concerned about teaching people how to balance their intakes, they are more concerned about the sales of their products. This was a point very well depicted in Jacques Peretti’s BBC series on “The Men Who Made Us Fat” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01k0fs0

    Tackling the weighty issue won’t be an easy task – not that we shouldn’t keep trying.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Certainly a very interesting a topical issue Paul! One that keeps growing and needs to be addressed. In this busy lifestyle that we lead it is hard to manage our calorie intake and eat a balanced diet. Families who are busy working with children are finding it more difficult to prepare a nutritious meal every night. Being able to monitor every item that we eat can be a task on its own. Then we must not forget to include the exercise component somewhere within the working week!

    Additionally, many people are supplementing the healthy options with pre-packaged options and fast alternatives, which tend to appear healthy from the outside. The increase in these options may be due to time or budget restrictions placed on the population. Eventually, these alternatives are what adds on the kilos.

    I agree with you lferguss in that the food industry is not concerned about the health of the Australian population, as they have to make a dollar. Hence, it will be up to the Government to consider the future well being of the population. Further promotion of the Eat for Health website which includes healthy eating options for all life stages, could be one at least avenue for the Government to consider: http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/eating-well

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Paul,
    A very hot topic in the medical research field at the moment. The literature seems to be heading down a path of amazing immunological discoveries which implicate micro biota diversity as a much bigger player in weight, health and brain function.

    The first thing i would like to refer to is this nature news piece on the brain gut link:

    The second piece of media i would like to refer to is
    This is a very interesting series on recent discoveries relating to the micro biota. The health and diversity of your stomach flora not only has significant health impacts but effects the efficiencies of processing different foods.

    The third thing piece of information i think helps paint a different light on this topic is the diet of some remote tribes which are incredibly high in energy and fibre.

    In summary I feel it is very easy to look at a simple input/output logic with weight but given the information available it looks to be more complex and be heavily dependent on how your body processes the energy.

    Thanks for listening to my response.


  5. Paul
    The topic of obesity and excessive eating high-calorie foods sustained by people off. People are concerned with every purchase of a commodity or merchandise nutritional value of foods will provide what energy.

    For weight and nutritional value of fact, many people will understand, and sometimes food and fried potato chips as well as delicious, especially high-calorie temptations will lead people to keep trying.

    We can add the benefits of exercise is recommended in the back of the store advertising and bags. Told they need a healthy life, and sometimes they are difficult to control dependence on food, some make them feel so fun sport to lose weight or reduce their dependence on high-calorie foods.



  6. One of the interesting challenges that our society will face (or is perhaps already facing?) is the cumulative effect of marketing on food preferences. There is massive inbalance in the profitability (and therefore promotional budgets) of processed, high sugar and fat foods versus healthy food options.

    Behavioural scientists have determined that the impact of television advertising can influence dietary behaviour up to five years after exposure. http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/6/1/7 While changes to labelling may be effective for addressing the unhealthy choices of uninformed and motivated consumers, will it be sufficient to break the psychological impulses preordained by clever marketers?

    Of particular concern is the way this marketing targets vulnerable children. Advertising messages are so pervasive that it is almost impossible for parents to shield their children from advertisers’ reach, thereby establishing a pattern of unhealthy eating whose impact is seen with the unprecedented obesity levels seen in so many first world cultures.

    Organisations such as Choice advocate a regulatory stance on such advertising, but it is clear that the obesity epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach to return our society to healthier footing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Paul,
    Purely referencing a food against an ‘average’ wouldn’t work. What is an average anyhow? If you’re comparing the food against RDI (Recommended Daily Intake), then yes you could suggest whether the food has a greater than recommended level of a certain ingredient, but at the end of the day eating 1 biscuit that has higher than recommended intake of for example, sugar, won’t do you harm, and yet eating a whole packet of course may do. Conversely, eating a biscuit of recommended or lower than recommended ingredient levels, won’t necessarily harm you, but also eating a whole packet probably will. It’s all about everything in moderation. Perhaps we need to focus more on such things as marketing/promoting more well-rounded intakes of food rather than binging or dieting in such a way that we feel deprived or guilty.

    Perhaps governments need to ‘market’ to the consumer about healthy eating rather than stipulating a rule – aka legislation. Have we considered that history will dictate that creating a ‘sin’ tax will not necessarily prevent consumers from purchasing/eating a certain product. Look at the result of the introduction of the alco-pop tax. Consumers worked around the tax and bought straight spirits instead. Perhaps clever marketing by governments around general, well-balanced diets would prove more successful.

    There is also a psychological concept called learned helplessness where people work out that a given result will occur no matter what they do – the same can be said for negatively promoting ideas like a ‘sin’ tax. There are many people that comfort eat for example – psychological studies show that positive reinforcement has greater results than the opposite in promoting healthy choices. Many hospitals in particular, have implemented a traffic light system to categorise the food they sell (red, amber and green). Research has shown that whilst consumers can see that they’re eating a ‘red’ meal, whilst they may feel guilty for doing so, it doesn’t actually stop them from purchasing it. What about an equivalency option whereby showing how a quantity of ‘green’ food equates to a quantity of a red meal – eg the amount you could eat of the red meal would be a much lower quantity.

    Food for thought – pardon the pun.


    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi Paul

    An interesting article and yet so relevant for today’s society. Have we lead ourselves down this path? I would think so, yes. There are a few things to consider here. We talking about unhealthy food options, we talking about a fast moving society, where sitting down at the dinner table with a prepared meal appears to be becoming harder to achieve. Kids have school, after school activities, the lives of both partners in the household are working and this is all adding pressure to the cycle of unhealthy food options and of course the dare to care (we could debate this topic for a very long time) but we all caught up in the consistency of a work hard, play hard environment and society. It’s also very common in social circles for encouragement of food choices around fat, sugars and salt to not only be encouraged by food chains but how often do you get invited to a bbq where there are a table full of fruit and veggies. It’s uncommon. There is always beers, burgers and bbq’s! It’s a social acceptance thing. Yes it’s Australian and as you mentioned the obesity problem starts with us individually and with who we be-friend. The government is doing a very good job with regards to cigarettes and the dangers of smoking at the moment, we see this advertised on TV all the time, the same is needed for unhealthy eating. Of course this is conflicting if you consider the very next advert would advertise a hungry Jack’s Burger with melted cheese. Is some form of regulation required on these adverts? i.e. I know we seeing some information in the adverts of Subways and how many kilojoule’s you can spare etc. but is this reaching home? does it mean anything to the normal person.. Do they even care to know.. Perhaps simpler marketing concepts are required and as you pointed out perhaps what we need is practical solutions – “Hungry Jack’s recommends a 40 minute walk after consumption of this burger” It can be a good marketing strategy also, the company know’s it’s products and also knows that it is not exactly offering the healthy choice but goes the extra mile to add advice to consumers to look after themselves..its that creating value?

    No you cannot take freedom of choice away, especially in Australia but perhaps a re-thought is needed that sweeps all products and is regulated by the government and consumer body as to what this particular product means once consumed. Perhaps pictures speak a thousand words over figures. Do people even have time to read that stuff when they shopping? Does it work? Education is required at all levels and what I see is potential for companies to re-market and re-invent themselves. Companies that would be very successful in this space are the likes of Lite and Easy, they are a healthy option, what would be good is for them to start staging themselves in public spaces, Coles, Woolies, put their products out there for taste, show people the differences and how easy it can be etc. Chains that would not be so easy to do this are obviously the KFC’s, Burger joints etc. They need to educate their consumers without losing brand value. Much thought is needed here. Does the product need to change, perhaps so, perhaps not, but they could do something with their message. I also agree with the post above, we a leading generation and that starts with our children, unfortunately they are also at the receiving end of all of this. It is however pleasing to know that some schools will only offer healthy options at canteen’s this is small steps of course but better than nothing, is education required in the school? What are parents doing? The government can and will only do so much. Some standardization may help of course but I think it needs to be easy to interpret for people.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Very interesting discussion here I think. Paul’s point on providing the right information to consumers is definitely relevant, however it is no doubt a challenge to provide information that is “right” to all consumers. Take myself as an example, as a long-distance runner, I would love to see the number of kilometer run required to exhaust the particular calories I am taking in. But as suggested in the blog post “The myth of the typical consumer”, there is no typical/average consumer in reality. It is therefore unrealistic for such kind of information to be too specific.

    The star rating system sounds like a good first step to make such information more user-friendly, but as suggested by the Cancer Council article shared by lmccomis, the uptake of the system is questionable as it is not mandatory. This latest article on the Sydney Morning Herald confirms that the system is still not mandatory to date: http://www.smh.com.au/business/choice-campaign-pressures-kelloggs-and-mondelez-to-start-using-health-star-ratings-20150317-1m0v4v.html

    So while I agree with Paul on providing people with the right kind of information that deals with the psychological side of things, I also agree with what a few people mentioned above on the effort required from the Government. This deals with the social and contextual side of things that influence consumer behaviour.

    I am not sure when this governmental document was written (probably around 2012), but it does touch on some good points of how behavioural psychology and sciences can be used in the design of regulation:

    In my opinion, businesses, consumers and governments are all important in changing consumer behaviours.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. To change eating habits and making the choice more healthy the behaviour of consumer needs to be altered, just by showing how many Kjoules or calories does not make any food/meal healthy the nutrition quality also needs to be there, such as balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber and many minerals and vitamins in foods.
    To make people switch to adapt healthy food they need to be motivated by some stimuli in environment, it can be government initiatives, health food industries or can be family and peers only then they can evaluate different food choices available with there nutrition content and can make better make decisions on healthy food choices.
    The behaviour change is not an over-night thing continous stimulation needs to be provided to change the perception of consumers about food choices and leave the traits of healthy eating reatained in there memory.


  11. A relevant and interesting topic, as many people are overlooking their calorie intake or poorly managing their daily intake, tallying up daily intake requirements (sodium, sugar, protein, fats etc.) to achieve a desired weight or health objective along with exercise considerations. I find most people do not tally up their total intake either (although this can be easily done through https://www.myfitnesspal.com designed to assist in dietary management).

    Other stresses from a busy lifestyle contribute to poor dietary management, small snacks during the day as a ‘quick fix’ or not having enough time to prepare meals results in eating out or fast food options, and I have never seen a menu breaking down or even estimating the nutritional value in its meal (other than KJs at fast food restaurants, which have no mention of fats and sugars), consumers can only guess according to their knowledge if the meal has put them over their daily intake of fats or salt. With a strong café and social dining culture, this also contributes to consumers being less informed, which ultimately results in poor nutrition management.

    As for labelling of products, I agree with Raymond that you cannot take away freedom of choice. We as consumers appreciate a vast variety of choices. Manufacturers are required by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to include nutritional value however it is up to the consumer to make choices on what they consume. This is a matter of education and lifestyle. The general public may need some education to understand what they are not doing properly and the benefits of how to effectively manage their health, which may be assisted by the government.


  12. A timely topic to the point. The wider society we live and work in is changing all the time and people are not having enough time to complete all the tasks at hand. Who wouldn’t like to go to bed ticking all boxes ‘done’. If this is the starting point then there are 2 implications to this.
    1/ People would spend less time eating and more time doing other things. How many of us have proper lunch breaks? How many of us work long hours and grab take-away food most week nights? (compared to say 20 or 30 years ago)
    2/ When purchasing food, we would look for ‘convenience’ and ‘price’

    It is the above 2 factors that marketers evaluate using the STP method. On top of this, not having enough time would also mean not getting enough exercise.

    Yes I’m for proper labeling which I believe will drive a behavioral change but not in agreement for a ‘fat tax’ given that the tax will be collected from mostly the low income/middle class. It is cheaper for a family of 5 to eat out at McDonalds or Hungry Jacks and grab takeaway Pizzas than eating in a proper restaurant. It is mainly this income group that the marketers will target and tailor the 4P s. You only need to look at 50c ice cream cones and $2 burgers from 12 noon – 2pm. The recent product/service offering has also been extended to targeting most parents these days who tend to have their kids’ functions at these fast food outlets who in turn offer the right product/service offering (there are designated play areas as well)

    I guess fast food is one aspect and buying groceries from super markets is another point in question where labeling is confusing. A star rating will help but not influence behavior that much. Consumers have brand loyalty (ex: Coke) and company such as Coke employs methods to make consumers believe the product is healthy. (Read How Coke gets you to think it’s healthy [news.com.au]:


    Also there is another article which talks about the A2 fresh milk where purchasing A2 milk (A2 is a protein present in cow’s milk) gives consumers a smoother feeling after consuming milk despite the Dieticians Association of Australia finding there is no solid scientific evidence demonstrating that A2 milk is better for you than regular milk. (again how nutritional value is communicated in a product?)


    Another key point to note here is that currently there seems to be no kilojoules details in popular alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer (last time I checked). It is not only the food but the regular drinks that people consume that will be adding to the calories as well.

    We need an integrated approach to tackling obesity which will no doubt involve labeling and some form intervention from the govt.


  13. Thanks Paul, I couldn’t agree more when it comes to your description about the legitimate role of government to intervene within reason in the interests of community wellbeing. The issues you raise make a good case for the government to intervene and redirect market forces (and ‘marketing’ forces) toward achieving more beneficial community outcomes in the dietary arena.

    It is indeed common to hear an accusing slur of ‘Nanny-State’ when it comes to government interventions intended to influence individual choices… However I have never heard the same accusation leveled at the government when it is picking up someone’s tab for the obesity related health conditions that are directly connected to these ‘individual choices’. It seems the ‘Nanny’ with the open cheque-book is welcome, but is given the instruction to “just slip it under the door thank you very much”.

    Please, lets get serious. Surely it’s a two-way street – with rights and responsibilities. I would have thought that for $35.6+ billion a year, the government had bought the right to exert some influence over these ever-escalating issues / costs related to overweight and obesity in Australia (See: https://ama.com.au/media/overweight-and-obesity-costs-australia-over-21-billion-year).

    A good place for the government to start redirecting these market forces is in relation to protecting the wellbeing of children. Lets get to the developing brains of the young ones first to give them a fighting chance at developing a healthy lifestyle. Neural pathways linking ‘pleasure’ and ‘junk food’ are forged very early on. Through unbridled market forces, children are quickly taught that ‘happy’ is defined and embodied in a high fat high and high sugar ‘happy-meal’.

    A simple idea… The government could consider introducing regulations that only allow fast food restaurants to market a toy giveaway with a child’s meal if the fat/sugar content of that meal is below a pre-determined threshold. Thus the food companies and their marketing approaches would have an incentive to package up their ‘child-targeted’ products with healthier meals. Just this simple action could go a long way in re-associating ‘happy’, ‘fun’ and pleasure’ with a healthier ‘taste’/meal in the developing brain of a young child. Getting this platform of healthy neural pathways well established from the outset might just make the job of helping adults make healthier choices later on just that little bit easier.


  14. Hello Paul,

    an interesting article however it represents a segment and I don’t think this would be a good solution.

    I am part of the community that actually has problems putting on weight. I am 6ft 3 and a bit inches high (my weight 72kg which makes me very skinny and my BMI says I am underweight) and a bit and have the same build as what I did in high school! I can even fit into the same clothes and while I waited expectantly for middle age spread I was disappointed as it never arrived. Apparently people like myself represent around 2% of the population (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/22/health/diet-fitness/trying-to-gain-weight/index.html). While I eat probably more than most this is a consequence of my high metabolism. Also my eating of high calorific foods does not cause me cholesterol problems etc as I get a regular checkup each year.

    A problem I find is that in the cooler months I crave fatty foods as I have problems staying warm. Already I have problems getting the calories out of many foods as so many things have moved to fat reduced products. While obesity causes health problems being skinny can as well. Problems that can occur include, infertility, mental issues, osteoporosis, neurological diseases and toxicity as some toxins are only fat soluble (http://www.centerforadvancedmed.com/2014/06/the-down-side-of-being-too-thin/ & http://www.nestle-family.com/nutrition-for-all/english/the-hazards-of-being-too-thin_866317.aspx).

    If costs were increased then people like myself would be disadvantaged. This is where sometimes even with health issues Market Segmentation is still very important.


  15. I know a lot of people including myself who would crave for sweet food when under a lotvof stress. therefore, eating habit is not only about daily calory intake, it also associated with stress level and mental wellbeing nowadays as we are in a society with lots of pressure from work, relationship and so on. Therefore, dealing with stress is managing weight and calory intake in some extent.


  16. Hi Paul,

    Another great article to debate about!

    I am in the category of people that don’t have a clue how many kilojoules consume but I certainly try to be aware of what goes in.
    I think we have to be mindful why this trend (Weighty changes made easy) is now in place though. The biggest reason is obesity I would think, this subject has been in the agenda for a while and it mainly due to the problem being affected a big % of Australians, it has become an epidemic.

    As this article has advised, the research showed that calories being consumed in restaurants like KFC and McDonald’s hasn’t reduced a great deal. I personally think if you go to these places is not because you are very interested to count your calories as there are many healthier options in the market.

    The issue that I see counting calories is people may have something very heavy in calories but if this type of food is not good quality. As the research mentioned in the original article posted by Paul (“this food has an above average level of fat or sugar”) most likely you are going to be hungry very quickly and that is when problem start I call it a ‘vicious circle’ if the next meal is not good quality either it would become an spiral problem.

    The research, undertaken by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer at Cancer Council Victoria and the Obesity Policy Coalition.
    “Traffic light labels are well understood by consumers and easy to understand at a glance. For this reason, we encourage the Victorian Government to include traffic light labels with kilojoule labeling to help support people to make healthier choices,” Ms Martin said.

    Research results
    Menu labelling option Average energy content of meal selected
    No labelling 4627
    Kilojoules +traffic lights +% Daily Intake 4530
    Kilojoules +%Daily Intake 4246
    Kilojoules 4137
    Kilojoules + traffic lights 4127

    To finish this post we have to understand all the information we want to pass to a ‘person’, ‘consumer’ ‘client’ or new prospect needs to be clear it needs to make sense to the end recipient if we want them to change a certain behavioral pattern in their lives. As future marketers the message needs to be effective to be influential in peoples decisions.

    Research link: http://www.cancervic.org.au/about/media-releases/2013-media-releases/april-2013/killer-joules.html#


  17. A really interesting article. Like Nathalie (hchanpit), I’m also a runner, though it’s a few years since my last marathon, I’m starting to get back into reasonable running shape again, so this article together with all the comments is very relevant for me.

    Technology today gives you a near real-time indication of the calories burnt during exercise, this is helpful for a person who is already engaged in a balanced diet, and has taken the time to research the subject. This person considers their total energy balance for the day, i.e. they look at the “big picture” of total “energy in” and “energy out”.

    Posting calorie information in chain restaurant’s is helpful for customers to make more healthy choices at that specific time, the arguments against, can be made that its not the absolute calorific value that is helpful, it is the relative values that help customers, and some graphical indication would do the same job. The argument for posting calorific information will help the more informed customers which chain restaurants are the better choice.

    The study by Bollinger et al (2010) looking into 100 million transactions at 222 locations in New York City, concludes that mandatory calorie posting is only a good policy if the benefits outweigh the costs. Reading through the studies referenced, it seems posting calorie information in chain restaurants, does lead to a calorie reduction, but these would yield only modest decreases in body weight, even if those reductions were not offset by increased caloric intake at other meals.

    Guthrie and Frazao (1999) examine the trend in eating away from home. An excellent point made is that calorie posting should encourage restaurants to innovate and offer low-calorie items, this will drive the decreases in body weight.

    Lin, B., J. Guthrie and E. Frazao (1999): “Away-From-Home Foods Increasingly Important to Quality of American Diet,” AIB-749, United States Department of Agriculture.


  18. “That Sugar Film” is presently showing in cinema’s in Australia. An article by Associate Professor Tim Crowe, Deakin University, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, explains the film’s release is timely given the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recent draft recommendations to eat no more than 12 teaspoons (50 grams) per day, and to aim for even half of that amount.

    He outlines two tips (i) start looking more closely at food labels and ingredient lists. The more processed and convenient a food is, the more likely it will have extra sugar in it, and (ii) simpler yet, ditch the label reading altogether and choose foods as close to their natural state as possible. Many of these foods don’t need a label and have a very short ingredient list.

    The point being made, is that posting calorie information, is just one solution of a more complex issue.

    I agree with Lynette (lferguss) that Juice Bar drinks are marketed as healthy. Fruit juices can be very high in sugars, as explained by Dr Lynne Millar of Deakin’s WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention.


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