7 February 2022

Does calorie labelling lead to healthier food choices?

Believe it or not, the UK is quite a few years off the pace with regards to calorie labelling on menus for dining outside the home.

The US had the ‘Nutrition Labelling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants law’ passed into law in 2018 which states that restaurant chains with 20 or more locations will have to list calories for menu items, and, if prompted, be able to provide more detailed nutrition information (such as macronutrient composition).

But the question is…

Will it lead to consumers making healthier food choices here in the UK?

Research in the US shows mixed results with some influence of menu labelling on food choices. Additional measures, such as healthy-food symbols and traffic-light labelling, was found to increase the effectiveness in promoting healthy eating.

The research suggests that cultural change and education may be required for menu labelling to be more effective. However, change also needs to come from within the food industry itself. By having to disclose calories and nutrition information, operators may choose to modify meals and decrease the calorie content of their menus.

Displaying calories on menus is going to benefit ‘aware’ consumers and will increase transparency on operators who may traditionally have had high-calorie menus to look at ways of reducing a proportion of their dishes.

Large chains in the US have already seen a decrease in calories on newly introduced dishes by between 12% – 20% but this is seen as not just as a result of new laws but an overall shift in consumer habits.

Resources: https://postgraduateeducation.hms.harvard.edu/trends-medicine/does-menu-labeling-lead-healthier-food-choices