The Longer-Run Impacts of Calorie Labeling in New York City: Evidence 5 Years after Implementation
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Jonathan Cantor, Alejandro Torres, Courtney Abrams, Brian Elbel
Background: There are few implemented regulations intended to alter food consumption patterns. One such policy is the mandatory disclosure of calorie information on chain restaurant menu boards. Previous research is mixed on the effect of menu labeling laws on fast food choices. Already implemented in several localities, the 2010 health reform bill requires restaurants with more than twenty locations to list calorie information on menu boards. Rules governing the policy were recently finalized with the expected rollout later this year. No controlled study to date has evaluated the long-term effectiveness of posted calorie information on menu boards. We present a longer-term follow-up of a previous study (Elbel et al. 2009, Health Affairs) that examined the influence of posted calorie information on fast food menu boards five years after the 2008 New York City labeling mandate.
Methods: For our analysis we use a difference in difference crossover design. Data was collected in 2008 (original study, two rounds of data collection separated by a few months) and 2013-2014 (follow-up study, three rounds of data collection, each 6 months apart) from almost 80 locations representative of four large fast food chains. Almost identical collection procedures were used for the two timeperiods. Receipts and survey responses were collected from over 4,600 adults at fast-food restaurants in New York communities and compared to over 4,000 receipts and survey responses from Jersey City and Newark, New Jersey, locations that did not introduce menu labeling.
We run several models to fully assess the program. Using logit regressions, we look at changes in the percentage of consumers who report noticing the posted information on menu boards, using the posted information on the menu board, and using the information to reduce the number of calories purchased. With ordinary least squares we look at changes in the number of calories, grams of saturated fat, milligrams of sodium and grams of sugar purchased. Both sets of regressions control for differences in gender, age, race, ethnicity, restaurant chain and whether the respondent ate in the restaurant or not.
Results: We will report how the introduction of menu labels might have influenced the percentage of consumers who reported seeing calorie information, using the information and using it to reduce the number of calories consumed over time, as compared to the non-labeled restaurants. We will also present an changes in any of the nutritional components purchased over time as a result of labeling.
Conclusions: Menu labeling is an important public policy, and its influence should be studied over time.