Placing labels on fast food items that show climate impact lowers consumers’ red meat consumption, a study published this week in the Journal of American Medical Association found. The study was authored by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The study placed labels on fast food items that indicate an item’s potential impact on the world’s climate.
Items made from chicken, fish, or vegetarian items were given a green label for positive environmental impact. Items made from red meats were given a red label for high-climate impact.
Compared to a control group who were shown a neutral label, 23.5% more participants selected a sustainable menu item.
“This randomized clinical trial’s findings suggest that climate impact menu labels, especially negatively framed labels highlighting high–climate impact items (ie, red meat), were an effective strategy to reduce red meat selections and encourage more sustainable choices,” the study’s authors wrote.
The authors also noted that those who ate more sustainable items perceived their meals to be healthier. The study noted this as a problem as foods prepared in restaurant settings are prepared with added sugars and saturated fats.
“Positively framed sustainability labels on unhealthy items could mislead consumers to perceive unhealthy foods as healthy, thereby encouraging consumption of these items. However, the extent that positively or negatively framed sustainability labels influence perceptions of healthfulness of fast food menu items is currently unknown,” the study’s authors wrote.