243642 Evaluating the Restaurant Industry's Response to California's New Menu Labeling Law

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 9:42 AM

Helen Wu, PhD(c), MPhil, MS , Pardee RAND Graduate School, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA
Roland Sturm, PhD , Health, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA
INTRODUCTION. Menu labeling policies have limited influence on consumer choice, but they can have beneficial spillover effects on the supply side. Our aim is to evaluate whether California's menu labeling law encouraged restaurants to reformulate individual menu items or change their menu offerings. METHODS. Self-reported caloric and nutrition data were collected from 285 major U.S. chain restaurants' websites in spring 2010 and 2011, before and after the California law was fully implemented. The treatment group is 112 restaurants subject to the law (20+ locations in the state), and the control group is 173 major restaurants not subject to it. A difference-in-difference model will evaluate whether changes in the caloric and nutritional content of menu offerings are significantly different for restaurants subject to the law. Analysis will use quartiles of the calorie, total/saturated/trans fat, sodium, carbohydrate, and protein levels of individual menu items to identify low, mid, and high-ranges. RESULTS. Preliminary analysis of more than 26,000 menu items in baseline data finds that current levels of calories and nutrients, especially sodium, are unacceptably high. Final results, which are pending spring 2011 follow-up data collection, will estimate the relationship between menu changes, the law, and restaurant characteristics (e.g., number of outlets, food type, service model, and average entrée price). DISCUSSION. Information disclosure is a common tool in public health law; menu labeling will be implemented nationally in 2012. Understanding the full impact of policies that promote transparency, in terms of both demand and supply-side changes, will inform future similar policy efforts.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
To evaluate whether the restaurant industry responded to the implementation of California's new menu labeling law by modifying the nutritional content of their menu offerings.

Keywords: Policy/Policy Development, Food and Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the lead analyst on this paper
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.