'Climate impact' labels on fast food items deter people from ordering beef: study

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A recent study analyzed how people’s food ordering habits changed when labels were placed next to dish selections on a fast food menu that indicated the food’s supposed impact on climate change, and the study discovered that people who ate “sustainable” labeled options believed their fast food to be more healthy.

Participants who were exposed to a red “high-climate impact label” next to certain beef menu options were nearly a quarter less likely to order those options compared to a control group where no such label was present, according to the Daily Mail.

The researchers, led by Julia Wolfson, suggested that this perceived link between sustainability and healthiness was “problematic in the restaurant setting” because “many of the more sustainable (ie, non–red meat-based) items are still high in calories, saturated fat, added sugar, and salt.”

“Positively framed sustainability labels on unhealthy items,” they warned, “could mislead consumers to perceive unhealthy foods as healthy, thereby encouraging consumption of these items.”

According to the study, 23.5 percent more participants in the group exposed to red warning labels ordered a “sustainable” menu item, which included chicken, fish, and plant-based products. Additionally, when green labels indicating a positive impact on the climate were put next to those products, 10 percent more participants ordered them.

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