The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1994 mandated that all packaged foods include a now-familiar label to inform consumers of the nutrition contents. In 2003, the government added trans fat to the list of required disclosures. But the original act did not mandate that the same nutrition information be made available at restaurants. As Americans choose to eat more and more meals and snacks outside the home, especially at fast food restaurants, the lack of available nutrition information keeps consumers in the dark about the calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrate amounts in their fast-food purchases. Consumers have a right to this information, so they can choose more healthful meals for themselves.
Local, state, and federal policies have been introduced that would mandate fast food restaurants to list calories on their menu boards and more complete information on menus. These policies would help create an environment that makes healthy behavior easier. The Rudd Center is currently conducting research to determine if providing calorie information on restaurant menus and menu boards influences peoples' food choices and/or the amount they consume.
For more information:
- Policy Brief on Menu Labeling In Chain Restaurants: Opportunities for Public Policy
- The California Menu Labeling Bill: A Case Study
- Information on New York City, King County Washington, and Montgomery County Maryland’s menu labeling laws.
- Declaration by Marlene B. Schwartz in support of menu labeling.
- An amicus brief in support of New York City menu labeling regulation by Robert Post, JD, PhD, of Yale Law School, and Jennifer L. Pomeranz, JD, MPH, and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, of the Rudd Center.
- Study, "Purchasing Behavior and Calorie Information at Fast-Food Chains in New York City, 2007." Researchers from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene examined the effect of prominently displaying calorie information at fast-food chains on food purchases. Patrons of Subway fast food restaurants who saw calorie information purchased significantly fewer calories than did other Subway patrons.
- Study, "Evaluating the Impact of Menu Labeling on Food Choices and Intake"
- Study, "Rationale and Evidence for Menu-Labeling Legislation"