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Frappuccino quantified: Starbucks to add calorie counts

Starting Tuesday June 25, Starbucks will post the calorie content of all its coffee drinks as well as tags for pastries in the bakery cases at its more than 11 000 locations in the US.

Mary Wagner, the senior vice president of global research and development at Starbucks, said: “Menu labeling is yet another step to extend our commitment to wellness, ensuring our customers and partners (employees) have the information they need to make informed decisions and understand all the ways that they can customize their Starbucks beverages to be within their desired calorie range.”

The company already offers nutrition information on its products online and through printed brochures. It started offering sugar-free syrup in its drinks in 1997 and stopped using high-fructose corn syrup in its baked goods in 2009.

Nutrition experts argue that such transparency about the nutritional and caloric content of foods that people consume on the go and in restaurants could help to curb overeating and lower obesity rates. But the data supporting this idea is conflicting.

Studies do show that people tend to underestimate the amount of calories they consume, especially while eating out. Last month, researchers reported in BMJ that diners who frequented fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts, thought they consumed far fewer calories than they actually did; adults and kids underestimated the caloric content of their meals by 175 calories, while adolescents were off by 259 calories.

But whether having caloric information on menus actually changes people’s eating habits isn’t as clear. In New York City, where larger fast-food chains and outlets like Starbucks have been required to post calorie information since 2008, some studies showed no change in how much people ate, while others showed that only one-sixth of consumers were motivated by the information to order lower-calorie options…..

Time: Read the full article

This is big news, and overdue, writes Corby Kummer in The Atlantic:

For many people who don’t want to think about calories, or think they have a good idea of the calories in what they’re eating, Starbucks is the first place they experience sticker shock – the 460-calorie blueberry scone that’s a quarter of the 2000 calories many women aim to eat every day, the seemingly healthful slice of banana-walnut bread that’s 490 calories.

But then you can look for and find lower-calorie items on the menu that’s labeled (at Starbucks, for instance, bagels under 300 calories), and start to acquire a sense of the calorie count of what you’re regularly ordering out and eating at home – the real utility of calorie labeling.

The Atlantic: Read the full article