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Good news for haters of the nanny state: New York City’s new law requiring calorie counts on chain restaurant menu boards doesn’t appear to be making any difference.  In fact, it might be causing people to eat more.

The full study is here.  Results are below.  The researchers chose 14 fast-food outlets in low-income NYC neighborhoods (Newark was a control group) and interviewed a few hundred people both before and after the calorie labeling law went into effect, asking them if they’d noticed the calorie counts and if they’d changed their selection because of it.  Then they got receipts from each respondent so they could find out what they’d actually purchased.

The results were pretty dismal: only about half the respondents even noticed the calorie counts and only 15% said they influenced their choice.  But the receipts told an even more dismal story: overall, people actually purchased more calories after the law went into effect.  The results aren’t statistically significant, though, so basically all the researchers can really say is that the law (so far) hasn’t had any effect.  The only glimmer of good news is that among people under 35, respondents who noticed the labeling did seem to cut back a bit.  No other subgroup showed any effect.  So who knows?  Young people probably respond to this kind of thing more quickly than older people, so maybe it’s just going to take some more time before all this stuff sinks in.

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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