Would knowing the calorie count put you off junk food?
A Big Mac and large fries? They'll cost you 1,050 calories, and beginning next week, McDonald's will tell its customers that in bright lights on its fast-food menus.
The world's No 1 hamburger chain said it is going to start listing calorie information on menus in some 14,000 US restaurants and drive-throughs - ahead of a national rule that will require larger restaurant chains to make such disclosures.
McDonald's is a trend setter for restaurants and its move in this arena - while prompted by regulations and pressure from US public health activists - is likely to force other restaurant operators to follow quickly.
But it is holding off from introducing calorie menu boards in New Zealand until its sees what happens in the US and the findings of a trans-Tasman food-labelling review are released.
Communications manager Simon Kenny said there was already a huge amount of nutritional information available to customers.
"We want to know whether it would be meaningful to our customers - that's the trick at the moment."
He said there was still debate as to whether people really understood kilojoules and calories.
The state of California and cities like New York already require that calories be clearly listed on menus. Under the new US healthcare law, restaurants across the country must soon put calorie counts and other nutrition details on menus.
The national rules target restaurants with 20 or more locations, as well as other retail food outlets. Most major chains have resisted posting such information, without legislation and the threat of fines.
McDonald's was slow to warm to calorie labelling.
When labelling proposals were gaining steam several years ago, McDonald's representatives publicly opposed them.
A common complaint was that rules from one jurisdiction to another were inconsistent. Some officials also said calorie disclosures would violate customer privacy.
Cindy Goody, senior director of nutrition for McDonald's USA, described the company's latest move as a way to help its customers understand their food choices.
The company is casting the nutrition disclosures as a business opportunity.
"It's a new reason to visit more often," Goody said.
Calorie and other nutrition information already is available on the company's website. Listing calories on menu boards allows customers to use that information when they are making a decision about what to eat.
Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy for the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest, thinks the national calorie labelling deadline will probably be around the end of 2013 - so customers at McDonald's will be getting the information about a year earlier than what will be required.
Disclosure rules already have helped convince many restaurants, including Starbucks, to cut calories from their food and to highlight healthy options, she said.
Those moves matter because Americans get about one-third of their calories from eating out, Wootan said.
Amid demands from parents and health activists, McDonald's also has taken steps to make menu items healthier.
It tweaked its popular Happy Meals for children - reducing the french fries portion by more than half and adding apples to every order.
This past summer, it rolled out a "Favourites Under 400" menu that highlights products in that calorie range.
McDonald's also plans to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to its menu and has set a goal of decreasing calories, saturated fat and added sugars across its US menu by 2020.
Corporate Accountability International has been pressing McDonald's to make bolder changes to its menus and to stop advertising to children.
"To truly address its health impact ... the burger giant (needs) to make more fundamental, far-reaching changes," said Juliana Shulman, senior organiser for the group's Value the Meal campaign.
More than two years ago, Panera Bread Co became the first national restaurant chain to voluntarily post calories at company-owned stores. Sandwich chain Subway has used calorie disclosures to position itself as a healthier alternative to rivals like McDonald's and Burger King.
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