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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Calorie menu labeling on quick-service restaurant menus: an updated systematic review of the literature

Jonas J Swartz1*, Danielle Braxton2 and Anthony J Viera13

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health Leadership Program, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

2 Nutrition Department, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

3 Department of Family Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:135  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-135

Published: 8 December 2011

Abstract

Nutrition labels are one strategy being used to combat the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 mandates that calorie labels be added to menu boards of chain restaurants with 20 or more locations. This systematic review includes seven studies published since the last review on the topic in 2008. Authors searched for peer-reviewed studies using PUBMED and Google Scholar. Included studies used an experimental or quasi-experimental design comparing a calorie-labeled menu with a no-calorie menu and were conducted in laboratories, college cafeterias, and fast food restaurants. Two of the included studies were judged to be of good quality, and five of were judged to be of fair quality. Observational studies conducted in cities after implementation of calorie labeling were imprecise in their measure of the isolated effects of calorie labels. Experimental studies conducted in laboratory settings were difficult to generalize to real world behavior. Only two of the seven studies reported a statistically significant reduction in calories purchased among consumers using calorie-labeled menus. The current evidence suggests that calorie labeling does not have the intended effect of decreasing calorie purchasing or consumption.

Keywords:
Calorie label; menu label; nutrition information; restaurant label; Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; obesity; food away from home; fast food