Nutrition labeling can be defined as the provision of nutritional information about standard menu items at the point of purchase. This can include disclosing calories on menu boards and making available, upon request, written information about total calories and calories from fat, amounts of fat and saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total and complex carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and protein. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) established national labeling requirements for specified classes of restaurants and vending machines. Public health studies are beginning to show that menu labeling may influence consumers to choose menu items with a lower number of calories.
Policy Statements Related to Menu Labeling
- The American Heart Association has adopted a position statement on menu labeling [PDF-55KB].
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published a research synthesis paper [PDF-369KB] in 2009 on the topic of menu labeling that considers the current status of menu labeling research and identifies areas for future study.
- The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University published a 2008 paper discussing menu labeling policy options for chain restaurants [PDF-165KB].
- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (PL111-148) Provision 4205
Enacted in March 2010, PPACA contains SEC. 4205 [PDF-53KB], establishing labeling requirements for certain restaurants, similar food service facilities, and vending machines.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The (FDA) announced on July 7, 2010 the opening of a docket to gather public comment and information to assist the FDA efforts to implement the menu labeling requirements.
- New York City (NYC)
The NYC Health Code compliments PPACA, but requires restaurants with 15 or more locations to post calorie counts on menu boards [PDF-196KB]. NYC maintains a website with information about related NYC Health Code requirements [PDF-59KB].
- American Medical Association’s Brief of Amici Curiae [PDF-950KB] on behalf of NYC Menu Labeling Requirements: Following enactment of the NYC menu labeling requirements, a court challenge was filed in the District Court and prompted a Brief of Amici Curiae by the AMA, which provides a wealth of background information on the topic of obesity and menu labeling.
- NYC’s Fight Over Calorie Labeling: Thomas Farley, Special Advisor to the NYC Health Department, was lead author of an article published in the 2009 edition of Health Affairs that provides an accounting of the events leading up to, and following, NYC’s initiation of mandated calorie labeling.
- Metropolitan King County, Washington
The Metropolitan King County Council amended the Code of the King County Board of Health to require chain restaurants (defined as any restaurant with 10 or more food establishments under the same name in the United States) to provide nutrition information on menus, including the total number of calories, grams of fat, grams of saturated fat, grams of carbohydrate, and milligrams of sodium.
Studies conducted by the NYC Department of Health and New York University researchers are beginning to show that menu labeling to inform consumers about healthier menu choices is working.
- Calorie Labeling and Food Choices: A First Look at the Effects on Low Income People in New York City
- New York City news story by Reuters discusses NYC Health Department findings that suggests menu labeling affects behavior (Reuters; 10/26/09)
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