Michele Polacsek, Ph.D., M.H.S., professor in the Public Health program and director of the Center for Excellence in Public Health, is a co-author of a new article published in The BMJ, a weekly peer-reviewed journal that is one of the world’s oldest general medical journals.
The article, titled “Estimating the effect of calorie menu labeling on calories purchased in a large restaurant franchise in the southern United States: quasi experimental study,” aimed to assess whether calorie labeling on menus was associated with a decrease in calories purchased in a large southern fast food franchise.
The study included restaurants in a diverse region with both urban and non-urban restaurants in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. It used information from 104 restaurants with approximately 50 million transactions over a three-year period, including a pre-labeling period.
The study concludes that a small decrease in mean calories purchased per transaction was observed after implementation of calorie labeling. However, this reduction diminished over one year of follow-up.
Nutrition labeling aims to help consumers make healthier choices. A recent federal mandate requires calorie labeling in chain restaurants and other retailers.
Evidence on the effect of calorie labeling on calories purchased in restaurants is mixed. Most studies have been done in large coastal urban cities. There is a lack of calorie labeling studies in the south where the prevalence of obesity is high.