Do Menu Labels Cause Diners to Order Fewer Calories?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

John Cawley PhD Professor of policy analysis and management College of Human Ecology Cornell University

Dr. Cawley

John Cawley PhD
Professor of policy analysis and management
College of Human Ecology
Cornell University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The background is that diet-related chronic disease has increased dramatically in the US and many other economically developed countries. For example, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. has roughly tripled since 1960, and the prevalence of Type II diabetes has also increased significantly.  As a result, policymakers are looking for ways to facilitate healthy eating.  One possible approach is to require that restaurants list on their menus the number of calories in each menu item.  Several cities such as New York City and Philadelphia passed such laws, and in May of this year (2018) a nationwide law took effect requiring such calorie labels on the menus of chain restaurants. However, the effects of this information is not well known.

To answer that question, we conducted randomized controlled field experiments in two sit-down, full-service restaurants.  Parties of guests were randomly assigned to either the control group that got the regular menu without calorie information, or the treatment group that got the same menus but with calorie counts on the menu.  We then documented what items people ordered and then surveyed the patrons after their dinner.  Overall we collected data from over 5,000 patrons.

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Restaurants Continue To Reduce Calories in Menu Items

Sara N. Bleich, Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Health Policy and Management Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Baltimore, MD 21205  MedicalResearch.com Interview Invitation
Sara N. Bleich, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Health Policy and Management
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Baltimore, MD 21205

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Bleich: Large chain restaurants appear to be voluntarily reducing the calories in their newly introduced menu items which contain an average of 60 fewer calories than items only on the menu in the prior year. This decline is primarily driven by new lower calorie salads and sandwiches.
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