248733 Restaurant Menu Labeling: Consumers' Understanding of Calorie Declaration on Menu Boards

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ewa Carlton, MA , Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, College Park, MD
FDA was mandated to regulate how chain restaurants in the US disclose calories of their menu items and what succinct statement should be on the menu to put the calories into the context of a suggested daily caloric intake.

A qualitative study consisting of ten focus groups was conducted throughout the US. The groups included adults who frequent fast-food chain restaurants and were segmented based on education and income. The objectives were to explore participants' understanding of daily calorie needs and to investigate their reactions to: (1) examples of calorie displays on menu boards, (2) different versions of a succinct statement, and (3) examples of additional nutritional information displays. The tested materials were developed using literature and existing menu labeling implemented in local jurisdictions.

Results: (1) The participants were positive toward calorie display on menu boards, however, only some said that calorie declaration would make them order lower calorie items or watch what they eat for the rest of the day. (2) For items that come in different flavors and/or sizes, participants preferred designs displaying exact calories or narrower numeric ranges over calories shown as averages or in wider ranges. (3) In examples of a succinct statement, participants questioned a 2,000-calorie recommendation due to the variability of individual needs. The majority knew that caloric needs vary for different individuals depending on gender and age. Participants were not sure whether children need more or less calories than adults. Many believed that physical activity is the most significant predictor of caloric needs.

Learning Areas:
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Explore consumer reactions to and understanding of the display of calorie information in restaurants on menu boards where there is variability inherent in the choice (i.e., different flavors, combos and varieties.) 2. Examine consumer responses to the succinct statement on menu boards about calorie needs and additional nutrition information. 3. Discuss how calorie declaration on menu boards may influence consumers' food selections at fast-food restaurants.

Keywords: Nutrition, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I work as social research scientist for the Food and Drug Administration and I have expertise in conducting qualitative research investigation and program evaluation.
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.