Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts were forced to take corrective actions Tuesday after a local television station here found the posted calorie counts of some menu items were incorrect.
Following an investigation by WCBS-TV that revealed the caloric inaccuracies, officials at both chains said that they were working to post accurate data. Starbucks also said it had temporarily removed its blueberry muffin from the menu.
Watch the Video here: WCBS-TV
The incident highlights the difficulties operators face in posting nutritional information for items that may vary slightly from day to day. The industry has long pointed to those difficulties as an argument against menu-labeling mandates.
According to the WCBS-TV report, Starbucks’ blueberry muffin was labeled as having 420 calories, but after testing was found to have 580 calories, approximately 40 percent more than the listed amount.
In addition, the investigation found the chain’s peach apple tart was labeled as having 120 calories, but really had 280. Meanwhile, Starbucks’ pumpkin scone was listed at 500 calories, but really had 539.
A spokeswoman for the Seattle-based coffeehouse chain said the company has taken immediate steps to rectify the situation, including temporarily pulling the blueberry muffin from the menu.
“Because this product has handcrafted components, variation in product size may occur,” said spokeswoman Tara Darrow. “We have contacted the supplier to take immediate corrective action. Until the product meets acceptable specifications, the muffin will be unavailable to customers.”
Darrow noted, however, that the caloric discrepancy involving the pumpkin scone was “within the Food and Drug Administration’s allowance for accuracy variation in nutrition reporting. Therefore, we are confident that the posted calorie count, which reflects an average portion size of this product, is accurate.” She added that the scone is a seasonal item and that it currently is not on the menu.
At Dunkin’ Donuts, the turkey, cheddar and bacon flatbread sandwich was listed at 360 calories, but tested at 460 calories, according to the report. A spokesman for the Canton, Mass.-based chain admitted the error and said it was the result of a recipe reformulation and was being addressed.
“Since Dunkin’ Donuts installed menu boards featuring calorie counts in New York in July 2008, the turkey, cheddar and bacon sandwich has been reformulated based on consumer feedback, including improving the bacon to make it crisper,” spokesman Andrew Mastrangelo said. “This improvement has impacted the caloric information. We are in the process of developing a new variety label for the sandwich that will be posted in-store to reflect the new calorie listing. We regret this inconvenience.”
New York City’s Department of Health, which enforces the calorie-posting rule at chains with 15 or more units, but does not conduct testing on the food, said it would fine the Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts stores in question.
“Accurate calorie postings are the responsibility of restaurant chains,” the department said in a written statement. “Under the health code, each chain must have a sound scientific basis for the information it posts. When questions arise about accuracy, restaurants must show that their calorie counts come from a verifiable source, such as a laboratory or a nutritional database. Any restaurant that cannot provide a sound basis for its calorie information will be cited for a health code violation.”
In 2008, New York City became the first municipality to mandate menu labeling. Since then more than 30 states, cities and counties have passed or are considering menu labeling, including California, Maryland, Tennessee, Indiana, Florida, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, Philadelphia, King County, Wash., Nashville, Tenn., and Westchester County, N.Y.
Federal lawmakers intgroduced the Labeling Education and Nutrition Act, which would create a national standard for menu-labeling mandates. Visit CRNI for more information about the LEAN Act.