Menu labeling as a potential strategy for combating the obesity epidemic: a health impact assessment

Am J Public Health. 2009 Sep;99(9):1680-6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.153023. Epub 2009 Jul 16.


Objectives: We conducted a health impact assessment to quantify the potential impact of a state menu-labeling law on population weight gain in Los Angeles County, California.

Methods: We utilized published and unpublished data to model consumer response to point-of-purchase calorie postings at large chain restaurants in Los Angeles County. We conducted sensitivity analyses to account for uncertainty in consumer response and in the total annual revenue, market share, and average meal price of large chain restaurants in the county.

Results: Assuming that 10% of the restaurant patrons would order reduced-calorie meals in response to calorie postings, resulting in an average reduction of 100 calories per meal, we estimated that menu labeling would avert 40.6% of the 6.75 million pound average annual weight gain in the county population aged 5 years and older. Substantially larger impacts would be realized if higher percentages of patrons ordered reduced-calorie meals or if average per-meal calorie reductions increased.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that mandated menu labeling could have a sizable salutary impact on the obesity epidemic, even with only modest changes in consumer behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Choice Behavior
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Food Labeling / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Food Labeling / methods*
  • Food Labeling / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Los Angeles / epidemiology
  • Menu Planning / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Preventive Health Services / methods*
  • Restaurants / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Weight Gain
  • Young Adult