Corporate Social Responsibility / Organizational Strategy / Product Development

Calorie Counts Beginning to Show Change

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With the growing obesity epidemic large chain restaurants have been under pressure to offer healthier options. Recent studies have come out presenting information that may enact a change in America’s growing obesity problem. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health “found that menu items introduced in 2013 contained 12% fewer calories, on average, than items on the menu only in the prior year.”

United States government regulators have a new law that they hope to be rolling out soon. The new law, driving lower-calorie offerings, will force any chain that has more than 20 outlets to post calorie counts on menus.  Some studies found that posting the calories had no effect on purchasing behavior, but health advocates are confident it will have a positive long term outcome.

This regulation raises questions over the corporate governance of large chain restaurants. Part of the general public believes it is their moral duty to provide healthy eating options for its consumers. This is because many large chain restaurants are being caught marketing their unhealthy food towards children and young adults. One could argue that these companies are encouraging young children to indulge in unhealthy binge eating which ultimately will lead to this becoming a lifestyle. Are these companies presenting poor ethical standards by doing this or is it up to consumers to be careful with what they eat?  Large companies such as WalMart have it stated in their “commitment” sections that it is their responsibility to provide the healthiest and best quality of food to their customers. Between 2008 and 2011 Walmart eliminated 6.9 million pounds of sugar in their yogurt products, a decrease of over 12%. Walmart also removed 1.5 million pounds of salt across the commercial bread category, a decrease of over 13%.

Many health advocates, including Sara Bleich of Johns Hopkins, believe that the fight against obesity needs to start in large fast food chains. They should be required to post calorie counts at all restaurants. If people see the calories they will be more cautious about what they are ordering. It is a moral obligation of these large chains to encourage healthy eating. They also should not only offer healthy options, they should also make an effort to make all of their food items healthier. This may hurt shareholder profits for the short term but there is a long-term goal trying to be achieved here.

Panera Bread Co. and McDonald’s are already providing their customers with the calorie count of their food. They are setting an example for other large restaurant chains across America. According to the New York Times, McDonalds is specifically targeting a lower calorie intake from their younger consumer generation.

There is a struggle to overcome large calorie consumption in America. However, there seems to be a bright future ahead to fight obesity and restaurants are taking a stand.

Morganne D’Anna


Sources:

Jargon, Julie. “Calorie Counts Falling At Chain Restaurants.” Wall Street Journal [New York, New York] 8 Oct. 2014: B4. Print.

Nagourney, Adam. “Berkeley Officials Outspent but Optimistic in Battle Over Soda Tax.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Oct. 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Horovitz, Bruce. “Restaurant Chains Trimming the Fat, Study Shows.” USA Today. Gannett, 08 Oct. 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

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