Starbucks to post calorie counts on menus

By CAROLINE LEE,  |  June 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM
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Starbucks announced Tuesday the company will post calorie information for beverages and food items on the menu boards in all company-operated stores.

The plan begins June 25, ahead of a federal regulation that would require it to do so. The labels are meant to encourage customers to make lower-calorie choices when choosing drinks, and to choose options like nonfat milk and sugar-free syrups.

Starbucks currently provides nutritional information on its website, iPhone app and brochures inside the cafes. Now, the information will be clearly displayed next to the items. For coffee drinks, the calorie count will include the company's default 2-percent milk.

The Seattle-based coffee chain has already implemented the menu in some parts of the country, including New York City and Seattle, where businesses are required to do so.

The pastry case will have calorie counts, too, making it harder for the health-conscious to justify a 500-calorie slice of Iced Lemon Pound Cake. Proponents of the change say the labels are not to keep people from buying high-calorie items, rather, to help customers get a better sense of the calories they are consuming.

This is especially useful when comparing seemingly healthful options, like the company's blueberry scone -- 460 calories -- or banana-walnut bread at 490. Starbucks offers several low-calorie options, including bagels under 300 calories, but the health difference within the bakery case is not obvious even to people that think they know how many calories they consume.

Starbucks follows other chains that already post calorie counts on their menus, including Au Bon Pain, Panera Bread and McDonald's. Other national chains are waiting for final guidelines from the FDA.

The regulation was introduced as part of the Affordable Care Act, and requires all restaurants with at least 20 locations to post calorie information on their menus. The National Restaurant Association, which supports the measure despite initially opposing it, expects the regulation to take effect in 2014.

Studies on labeling have produced mixed results, but one study conducted by Stanford researchers compared Starbucks stores with calorie labels in New York City to those in Philadelphia and Boston without. Research shoed that people did order lower-calorie items when the information was immediately available to them every time they ordered.

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