Study shows climate impact labels on food sold in fast food restaurants can change buying habits

Climate impact labels on food sold at fast food restaurants could change buying habits, study finds

visual abstract. Climate Change Impact – The impact of menu labels on fast food ordering choices. credit: JAMA network open (2022). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.48320

A team of researchers from multiple agencies in the United States has found that by labeling food sold at fast food restaurants to inform consumers of the negative impact that such food production has on the planet, found that buying habits can be changed. In their paper published in JAMA network openthe group describes conducting an online survey using a fictional restaurant to learn more about consumers’ food purchasing choices.

Previous studies have found that animal food production accounts for about 14.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Numerous studies have also shown that switching to more sustainable foods, such as plant-based foods, can significantly reduce emissions. Unfortunately, consumers are resisting change and many want to continue eating meat.

As an example, about 85% of farmland in the UK is used to graze animals or grow crops to feed livestock. In this new effort, researchers looked at new ways to persuade consumers to eat more sustainable foods. Label menus next to foods that openly explain the climate impact of choosing food choices.

The researchers started with the idea that part of the problem in getting consumers to change their food choices is lack of knowledge. People don’t realize that eating tofu that’s been eaten is far more harmful to the planet than eating it.

To test the idea, researchers conducted an online survey that involved presenting menu choices to 5,049 participants. Each chose from a fictional fast food restaurant for her. Next to each menu choice, researchers placed one of three labels describing whether the menu choice was environmentally sustainable, unsustainable, or of unknown sustainability as a control. did.

Researchers report that 23.5% more people chose sustainable menu items than the control group, and only 9.9% for non-sustainable items. It suggests that consumers are more willing to make greener food choices if they are given the information they need to make choices.

For more information:
Julia A. Wolfson et al, Impact of climate change on US adults’ fast food ordering choices Impact of menu labels, JAMA network open (2022). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.48320

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