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‘Traffic-light’ and numeric calorie labels cut calorie consumption by 10 percent

Imagine you’re ordering lunch from your favorite online delivery spot, and just before submitting your order, you notice that the club sandwich in your cart is marked with a red stop light signifying high calorie content. Would you keep it in your cart? New research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania suggests you might switch to a lower-calorie option. When researchers added color-coded or numeric calorie labels to online food ordering systems, the total calories ordered was reduced by about 10 percent when compared to menus featuring no calorie information at all. The study is the first to evaluate the effect of “traffic-light” calorie labeling – where green labels signal low calorie content, yellow labels signal medium calorie content, and red labels signal high calorie content – in the increasingly common setting of ordering meals online. Results are published online in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.

Menu selections with corresponding color-coded calorie labels
Menu selections with corresponding color-coded calorie labels
Image Credit: Penn Medicine