Calorie Count Fixing Businesses Exposed

By: CBS Email
By: CBS Email


New York City is the first in the nation to mandate calorie disclosure on menus, which a restaurant group has been fighting in court.

Now in a special investigation, CBS station WCBS-TV has found that eateries may be misleading customers as to just how many calories are packed into their food.

From breakfast and snacks to much loved diners New Yorkers are facing sticker shock -- not over the prices but at the calories exposed by the city's new calorie labeling law. And just how accurate are these numbers?

WCBS-TV confronted a manager at a local Starbucks:

WCBS-TV : "Your blueberry muffin is supposed to be 420 calories. It was 580 calories. That's 40 percent higher than advertised. Do you have any idea how that happened?"

Manager: "No."

Your favorite local restaurants may be telling you one thing but actually weighing in at a far different number.

WCBS-TV also confronted a manager at a local Dunkin Donuts:

WCBS-TV: "I see that your turkey, cheddar, bacon sandwich is supposed to be 360 calories, but we had it tested in a lab and it came in at 460 calories."

Manager: "You gotta talk to Dunkin' brands ..."

New York City is tackling citizens' expanding bottom lines, mandating chain restaurants disclose calories, hoping to shrink 150,000 obese New Yorkers in five years. So WCBS-TV decided to put seven items from restaurants and your favorite coffee shops like Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts to the test. The result? They all failed.

"The whole point of the calorie count law is people need the information and if the information is invalid, it's pointless," Starbucks customer Sheryl Imperati said.

Imperati said she lives by calorie counts, and chose Starbucks' peach apple tart at a skinny 120 calories as her indulgence, but something didn't add up.

"It said 120 and it was 280, so they were 160 calories off," Imperati said. "I was really upset."

Starbucks admitted to the mistake, and re-labeled, but it wasn't the only thing in Starbucks' bakery case that failed. The pumpkin scone and the blueberry muffin both came in higher in the number of calories.

"Can you tell me why that might have happened?" WCBS-TV asked the manager.

The manager didn't have an answer, but we took our results to the NYC Department of Health.

"We found them intriguing and I think they confirmed some of our concerns," Dr. Lynn Silver said.

While the health department inspects restaurants for safety, it does not test calorie amounts. It's up to the restaurants to come up with the numbers and prove their testing methods.

Now, after seeing WCBS-TV's findings, the health department said it plans to investigate further.

"We'll fine them," Silver said.

Dunkin Donuts admitted the mistake and said it's re-labeling their sandwich. Starbucks said it will take the blueberry muffin off the menu until it gets the same calorie amount for every muffin.

But it all leaves diners wondering why these restaurants have so much trouble just getting it right.

Those fines top out at $2,000. And we'd also like to point out that two of the seven items WCBS-TV tested contained far fewer calories than what was labeled.

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