Advertisement

Current Obesity Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 72–80 | Cite as

Restaurant Menu Labeling Policy: Review of Evidence and Controversies

  • Eric M. VanEpps
  • Christina A. RobertoEmail author
  • Sara Park
  • Christina D. Economos
  • Sara N. Bleich
Psychological Issues (M Hetherington and V Drapeau, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Psychological Issues

Abstract

In response to high rates of obesity in the USA, several American cities, counties, and states have passed laws requiring restaurant chains to post labels identifying the energy content of items on menus, and nationwide implementation of menu labeling is expected in late 2016. In this review, we identify and summarize the results of 16 studies that have assessed the impact of real-world numeric calorie posting. We also discuss several controversies surrounding the US Food and Drug Administration’s implementation of federally mandated menu labeling. Overall, the evidence regarding menu labeling is mixed, showing that labels may reduce the energy content of food purchased in some contexts, but have little effect in other contexts. However, more data on a range of ong-term consumption habits and restaurant responses is needed to fully understand the impact menu labeling laws will have on the US population’s diet.

Keywords

Menu labeling Calorie labeling Obesity prevention Food policy 

Notes

Compliance With Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Eric M. VanEpps, Christina A. Roberto, Sara Park, Christina D. Economos, and Sara N. Bleich declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

References

Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance

  1. 1.
    Gortmaker SL, Swinburn BA, Levy D, Carter R, Mabry PL, Finegood DT, et al. Changing the future of obesity: science, policy, and action. Lancet. 2011;378:838–47.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cecchini M, Sassi F, Lauer JA, Lee YY, Guajardo-Barron V, Chisholm D. Tackling of unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and obesity: health effects and cost-effectiveness. Lancet. 2010;376:1775–84.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Mozaffarian D, Afshin A, Benowitz NL, Bittner V, Daniels SR, Franch HA, et al. Population approaches to improve diet, physical activity, and smoking habits: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2012;126:1514–63.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kumanyika SK, Obarzanek E, Stettler N, Bell R, Field AE, Fortmann SP, et al. Population-based prevention of obesity: the need for comprehensive promotion of healthful eating, physical activity, and energy balance: a scientific statement from American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, Interdisciplinary Committee for Prevention (formerly the expert panel on population and prevention science). Circulation. 2008;118:428–64.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Sec 4205. Nutrition labeling of standard menu items in restaurants and similar retail food establishments.Google Scholar
  6. 6.•
    Food and Drug Administration. Food labeling; nutrition labeling of standard menu items in restaurants and similar retail food establishments; calorie labeling of articles of food in vending machines; final rule, Federal Register 79, no. 230 (2014): 71156–259. Available at: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/01/2014-27833/food-labeling-nutrition-labeling-of-standard-menu-items-in-restaurants-and-similar-retail-food. Accessed Nov 2015. The federal rule was released and made open to comment on December 1, 2014, and was originally designed to be implemented by December 1, 2015. The compliance date has since been extended to December 1, 2016, in part due to some of the controversies described in this review
  7. 7.
    Food and Drug Administration. Menu and vending machines labeling requirements. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm217762.htm. Accessed Nov 2015.
  8. 8.
    Center for Science in the Public Interest. (2011). State and local menu labeling policies. Available from: http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/ml_map.pdf. Accessed Nov 2015.
  9. 9.
    Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. S.558. Available at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-104/pdf/STATUTE-104-Pg2353.pdf
  10. 10.
    National Restaurant Association. 2015 Restaurant industry pocket factbook. Available at: https://www.restaurant.org/Downloads/PDFs/News-Research/research/Factbook2015_LetterSize-FINAL.pdf. Accessed Nov 2015.
  11. 11.
    Lin BH. Diets of America’s children: influence of dining out, household characteristics, and nutrition knowledge. Agricultural Economic Report No. 726. Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture; 1996.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Guthrie J, Biing-Hwan L, Frazao E. Role of food prepared away from home in the American diet, 1977–78 versus 1994–96: changes and consequences. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2002;34(3):140–50.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Todd J, Mancino L, Lin BH. The impact of food away from home on adult diet quality. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2010. Available at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err-economic-research-report/err90.aspx. Accessed on Nov 2015.
  14. 14.
    Nielsen S, Popkin B. Patterns and trends in food portion sizes, 1977–1998. JAMA. 2003;289(4):450–3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Young L, Nestle M. The contribution of expanding portion sizes to the U.S. obesity epidemic. Am J Public Health. 2002;92(2):246–9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Diliberti N, Bordi P, Conklin M, Roe L, Rolls B. Increased portion size leads to increased energy intake in a restaurant meal. Obes Res. 2004;12(3):562–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Rolls B, Morris E, Roe L. Portion size of food affects energy intake in normal-weight and overweight men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76(6):1207–13.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Block JP, Condon SK, Kleinman K, Mullen J, Linakis S, Rifas-Shiman S, et al. Consumers’ estimation of calorie content at fast food restaurants: cross sectional observational study. BMJ. 2013;346:f2907.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Backstrand J, Wootan MG, Young LR, Hurley J. Fat chance. Washington: Center for Science in the Public Interest; 1997.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Center for Science in the Public Interest. Summary of polls on nutrition labeling in restaurants. www.cspinet.org/new/pdf/census_menu_board_ question.pdf. Accessed Nov 2015.
  21. 21.
    Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Menu labeling in chain restaurants: opportunities for public policy. www.yaleruddcenter.org/ reports/pdfs/RuddMenuLabelingReport2008.pdf. Accessed Nov 2015.
  22. 22.
    Gollust SE, Barry CL. Niederdeppe. Americans’ opinions about policies to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Prev Med. 2014;63:52–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Swartz JJ, Braxton D, Viera AJ. Calorie menu labeling on quick-service restaurant menus: an updated systematic review of the literature. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011;8:135.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Kiszko KM, Martinez OD, Abrams C, Elbel B. The influence of calorie labeling on food orders and consumption: a review of the literature. J Community Health. 2014;39(6):1248–69.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Sinclair SE, Cooper M, Mansfield ED. The influence of menu labeling on calories selected or consumed: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(9):1375–88. e15.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Long MW, Tobias DK, Cradock AL, Batchelder H, Gortmaker SL. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of restaurant menu calorie labeling. Am J Public Health. 2015;105(5):e11–24.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Girz L, Polivy J, Herman CP, Lee H. The effects of calorie information on food selection and intake. Int J Obes (Lond). 2012;36(10):1340–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Roberto CA, Schwartz MB, Brownell KD. Rationale and evidence for menu-labeling. Am J Prev Med. 2009;37(6):546–51.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Harnack LJ, French SA. Effect of point-of-purchase calorie labeling on restaurant and cafeteria food choices: a review of the literature. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2008;5:51.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act (H.R. 2017). Available at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2017/text. Accessed Nov 2015.
  31. 31.
    Auchincloss AH, Mallya GG, Leonberg BL, Ricchezza A, Glanz K, Schwarz DF. Customer responses to mandatory menu labeling at full-service restaurants. Am J Prev Med. 2013;45(6):710–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Bollinger B, Leslie P, Sorensen A. Calorie posting in chain restaurants. Am Econ J-Econ Polic. 2011;3(1):91–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Wisdom J, Downs JS, Loewenstein G. Promoting healthy choices: information versus convenience. Am Econ J-Appl Econ. 2010;2(2):164–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Pulos E, Leng K. Evaluation of a voluntary menu-labeling program in full-service restaurants. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(6):1035–9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Krieger JW, Chan NL, Saelens BE, Ta ML, Solet D, Fleming DW. Menu labeling regulations and calories purchased at chain restaurants. Am J Prev Med. 2013;44(6):595–604.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Dumanovsky T, Huang CY, Nonas CA, Matte TD, Bassett MT, Silver LD. Changes in energy content of lunchtime purchases from fast food restaurants after introduction of calorie labelling: cross sectional customer surveys. BMJ. 2011;343:d4464.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Elbel B, Kersh R, Brescoll VL, Dixon LB. Calorie labeling and food choices: a first look at the effects on low-income people in New York City. Health Aff (Millwood). 2009;28(6):w1110–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Elbel B, Mijanovich T, Dixon LB, Abrams C, Weitzman B, Kersh R, et al. Calorie labeling, fast food purchasing and restaurant visits. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013;21(11):2172–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Cantor J, Torres A, Abrams C, Elbel B. Five years later: awareness of New York City’s calories labels declined, with no changes in calories purchased. Health Aff (Millwood). 2015;34:1893–900.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Finkelstein EA, Strombotne KL, Chan NL, Krieger J. Mandatory menu labeling in one fast-food chain in King County. Washington Am J Prev Med. 2011;40(2):122–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Ellison B, Lusk JL, Davis D. Looking at the label and beyond: the effects of calorie labels, health consciousness, and demographics on caloric intake in restaurants. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2013;10(1):21.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Schwartz J, Riis J, Elbel B, Ariely D. Inviting consumers to downsize fast-food portions significantly reduces calorie consumptions. Health Aff (Millwood). 2012;31:399–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Downs JS, Wisdom J, Wansink B, Loewenstein G. Supplementing menu labeling with calorie recommendations to test for facilitation effects. Am J Prev Med. 2013;103(9):1604–9.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Elbel B, Gyamfi J, Kersh R. Child and adolescent fast-food choice and the influence of calorie labeling: a natural experiment. Int J Obes (Lond). 2011;35(4):493–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Tandon PS, Zhou C, Chan NL, Lozano P, Couch SC, Glanz K, et al. The impact of menu labeling on fast-food purchases for children and parents. Am J Prev Med. 2011;41(4):434–8.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Holmes AS, Serrano EL, Machin JE, Duetsch T, Davis GC. Effect of different children's menu labeling designs on family purchases. Appetite. 2013;62:198–202.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.•
    Green JE, Brown AG, Ohri-Vachaspati P. Sociodemographic disparities among fast-food restaurant customers who notice and use calorie menu labels. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015;115:1093–101. This study identifies that 57% of McDonald’s guests report noticing energy content labels on menus and showed that those with household income below $50,000 were especially unlikely to notice or use numeric calorie labels. This suggests the current format of menu labeling might not be adequate to reach all consumers, especially low-income ones.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    National Restaurant Association. No exemption of groceries, c-stores from menu labeling. 2013. Available at: http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/News/NRA-No-exemption-of-groceries,-c-stores-from-menu. Accessed Nov 2015.
  49. 49.
    Packaged Facts. With prepared foods market at $32 billion, supermarkets aren’t just for groceries anymore. Available at: http://www.packagedfacts.com/about/release.asp?id=2888. Accessed Nov 2015.
  50. 50.
    American Pizza Community. Menu labeling regulation. 2015. Available at: http://www.americanpizzacommunity.com/page.asp?content=issues_menu_labeling&g=pizza. Accessed Nov 2015.
  51. 51.
    ElBoghdady D. Pizza chains band together over proposed menu-labeling plan. Washington Post. Jun 19 2012. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/pizza-chains-band-together-over-proposed-menu-labeling-plan/2012/06/19/gJQAxcf3oV_story.html. Accessed Nov 2015.
  52. 52.
    Roberto CA, Larsen PD, Agnew H, Baik J, Brownell KD. Evaluating the impact of menu labeling on food choices and intake. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(2):312–8.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Elbel B. Consumer estimation of recommended and actual calories at fast food restaurants. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011;19:1971–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Hammond D, Goodman S, Hanning R, Daniel S. A randomized trial of calorie labeling on menus. Prev Med. 2013;57:860–6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    James A, Adams-Huet B, Shah M. Menu labels displaying the kilocalorie content or the exercise equivalent: effects on energy ordered and consumed in young adults. Am J Health Promot. 2015;29(5):294–302.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.•
    Bruemmer B, Krieger J, Saelens BE, Chan N. Energy, saturated fat, and sodium were lower in entrees at chain restaurants at 18 months compared with 6 months following the implementation of mandatory menu labeling regulation in King County. Washington J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112:1169–76. This paper shows that restaurants in King County, Washington, provided healthier items after menu labeling went into effect. Though individual consumers in fast-food settings have shown only limited behavioral responses to energy content labels, there may still be nutritional improvements in meals if labeling motivates supply-side shifts toward lower-energy items.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric M. VanEpps
    • 1
  • Christina A. Roberto
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sara Park
    • 2
  • Christina D. Economos
    • 3
  • Sara N. Bleich
    • 4
  1. 1.VA Center for Health Equity Research and PromotionPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medical Ethics and Health PolicyPerelman School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.ChildObesity180, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and School of MedicineTufts UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Policy and ManagementJohn Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations