Menu Labeling and Calories Purchased in Restaurants in a US National Fast Food Chain

Pasquale E. Rummo, Tod Mijanovich, Erilia Wu, Lloyd Heng, Emil Hafeez, Marie A. Bragg, Simon A. Jones, Beth C. Weitzman, Brian Elbel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Importance: Menu labeling has been implemented in restaurants in some US jurisdictions as early as 2008, but the extent to which menu labeling is associated with calories purchased is unclear. Objective: To estimate the association of menu labeling with calories and nutrients purchased and assess geographic variation in results. Design, Setting, and Participants: A cohort study was conducted with a quasi-experimental design using actual transaction data from Taco Bell restaurants from calendar years 2007 to 2014 US restaurants with menu labeling matched to comparison restaurants using synthetic control methods. Data were analyzed from May to October 2023. Exposure: Menu labeling policies in 6 US jurisdictions. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was calories per transaction. Secondary outcomes included total and saturated fat, carbohydrates, protein, sugar, fiber, and sodium. Results: The final sample included 2329 restaurants, with menu labeling in 474 (31468 restaurant-month observations). Most restaurants (94.3%) were located in California. Difference-in-differences model results indicated that customers purchased 24.7 (95% CI, 23.6-25.7) fewer calories per transaction from restaurants in the menu labeling group in the 3- to 24-month follow-up period vs the comparison group, including 21.9 (95% CI, 20.9-22.9) fewer calories in the 3- to 12-month follow-up period and 25.0 (95% CI, 24.0-26.1) fewer calories in the 13- to 24-month follow-up period. Changes in the nutrient content of transactions were consistent with calorie estimates. Findings in California were similar to overall estimates in magnitude and direction; yet, among restaurants outside of California, no association was observed in the 3- to 24-month period. The outcome of menu labeling also differed by item category and time of day, with a larger decrease in the number of tacos vs other items purchased and a larger decrease in calories purchased during breakfast vs other times of the day in the 3- to 24-month period. Conclusions and Relevance: In this quasi-experimental cohort study, fewer calories were purchased in restaurants with calorie labels compared with those with no labels, suggesting that consumers are sensitive to calorie information on menu boards, although associations differed by location..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E2346851
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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