Calorie count is displayed for about seven seconds on McDonald's new menus. Photo: Michele Mossop
Fast food giant McDonald's has introduced new menu boards that make it harder to see and compare the calories in its products, disappointing health advocates and potentially breaching food labelling laws.
Old menu boards showed the kilojoules in each product next to its price, but the new boards, which have so far been rolled out in 700 stores across Australia, do not.
To see how many kilojoules are in a particular hamburger, customers must wait for up to a minute for the animated menu to scroll through each product, bringing up an image of that item and only then displaying its health information.
A NSW Food Authority example of how fast food chains must display information.
The health information for each item is displayed for about seven seconds.
The new menus could fall foul of NSW fast food labelling laws introduced in 2011 that make it compulsory for large fast food chains to display nutritional information in an effort to help customers to make healthier choices.
The laws state outlets must show the kilojoule content of each item next to the price and in the same size writing.
The new electronic McDonald's menu.
Similar laws are in place in South Australia and were floated in Victoria in 2010 by the Brumby government, which was voted out of offices before the legislation could pass.
Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, said it was disappointing McDonald's had made it more difficult for people to choose their meals based on how many kilojoules were in it.
"Comparing [kilojoules in items] is the key, because we do know that when people do compare, they will make different choices," Ms Martin said.
"The evaluation in NSW shows that people ordered fewer kilojoules when they were provided with this information together with a campaign telling them what it meant.
"Wherever the price is shown, the price should be next to it to give people another metric other than price on which to base their decisions."
McDonald's spokesman Chris Grant defended the new menu boards, saying they made it easier for customers to see the kilojoule labels.
"Our customers provided us with clear feedback that our old static menu boards were cluttered and difficult to read," Mr Grant said.
"Our new digital menu boards directly address our customers' concerns and we believe the kilojoules are more clearly displayed."
Mr Grant said McDonald's fully supported kilojoule labelling, and voluntarily provided that information in states where it was not compulsory.
He said said nutritional information was also available online, at in-store at kiosks, and on drive-through menus.
A NSW Food Authority spokeswoman said the authority would be working with McDonald's to ensure the new menu boards complied with legal requirements.