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Food Qual Prefer. 2016 Sep;52:232-236. Epub 2016 May 6.

Mixed Messages: Ambiguous Penalty Information in Modified Restaurant Menu Items.

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Department of Food Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 USA.
Department of Research, Accents on Health, Inc.(dba Healthy Dining), San Diego, CA 92123 USA.
Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033 USA.


Restaurant menu items from six national or regional brands were modified to reduce fat, saturated fat, sodium and total calories. Twenty-four items were tested with a current recipe, and two modifications (small and moderate reductions) for 72 total products. Approximately 100 consumers tested each product for acceptability as well as for desired levels of tastes/flavor, amounts of key ingredients and texture/consistency using just-about-right (JAR) scales. Penalty analysis was conducted to assess the effects of non-JAR ratings on acceptability scores. Situations arose where JAR ratings and penalty analyses could yield different recommendations, including large groups with low penalties and small groups with high penalties. Opposing groups with moderate to high penalties on opposite sides of the same JAR scale were also seen. Strategies for dealing with these observances are discussed.


Acceptance testing; Consumer testing; Hedonic scales; Just-about-right scales; Penalty analysis; Restaurant menu items

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