The International Food Information Council just released its 2006 Food and Health Survey (check it out at www.foodprocessing.com/whitepapers/2006/008.html or visit www.ific.org for more information). One figure jumped out at me in this comprehensive and indispensable opus. When asked how many calories per day a person of the respondent's age, weight and height should consume, 43 percent of respondents would not even hazard a guess.
A figure like that says to me American consumers have either given up or just flat-out don't care.
Considering the first supposition, in the 20 years I've been involved in nutrition the single most off-putting thing to consumers is the shifts and changes in "facts" presented in nutrition reporting. If that's the case, you can't blame them for throwing in the towel. As I've reported before (see "When Scientists Go Bad" on this website), the irresponsibility in nutrition reporting has only become worse at a time when it should have become better. It's a fire being fed not by sloppy journalists with no science background; rather, it's a contest between sell-out Ph.D.s each trying to be the big name in nutrition by gainsaying one another.
As for the second supposition, the first would certainly indicate a subsequent trend toward apathy, but it could also be a positive sign. Hear me out: Consumers may just have finally caught on that it's not so much the number of calories you put in your mouth as it is the quality of those calories.
The Food and Health Survey actually provides insight indicating both and neither of these suppositions are true. I'm not sure anything can definitively tell the whole story behind the fact that nearly half of Americans don't care one whit about the number of calories needed. What it does do is give a comprehensive picture of both what people eat and how their food consumption patterns are perceived when it comes to health.
There's also a fair share of "I'm not having problems - but my neighbor sure is!" attitudes. Well, that's my 43 percent's worth. Click here to read the survey and see for yourself.
P.S.: There is a movement by some to bring back calorie counting as a direction in which to take consumers. I'll be commenting on that in an upcoming report based on experiences at the Institute of Food Technologists annual conference and expo just held in Orlando.