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      Changes in Calorie Content of Menu Items at Large Chain Restaurants After Implementation of Calorie Labels

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          Key Points

          Question

          Is calorie labeling on menus associated with reductions in the calorie content of menu items at large chain restaurants?

          Findings

          This cohort study comprising 59 large restaurant chains followed up from 2012 to 2019 found that restaurants did not change the calorie content of continuously offered items. However, new items introduced after calorie labeling had a mean of 113 fewer calories (approximately −25%) compared with new items introduced before labeling, a statistically significant reduction.

          Meaning

          This study suggests that mandated calorie labeling may have encouraged large restaurant chains to introduce lower-calorie items, but additional interventions should be explored to improve the nutritional quality of foods purchased from restaurants.

          Abstract

          Importance

          Calorie labeling on menus is required in US chain food establishments with 20 or more locations. This policy may encourage retailers to offer lower-calorie items, which could lead to a public health benefit by reducing customers’ calorie intake from prepared foods. However, potential reformulation of restaurant menu items has not been examined since nationwide enforcement of this policy in 2018.

          Objective

          To examine the calorie content of menu items at large chain restaurants before and after implementation of federally mandated menu calorie labels.

          Design, Setting, and Participants

          This pre-post cohort study used restaurant menu data from MenuStat, a database of nutrition information for menu items offered in the largest chain restaurants in the US, collected annually from 2012 to 2019. The study comprised 35 354 menu items sold at 59 large chain restaurants in the US. Statistical analysis was conducted from February 4 to October 8, 2021.

          Intervention

          Nationwide implementation of menu calorie labeling.

          Main Outcomes and Measures

          Changes in menu items’ calorie content after restaurant chains implemented calorie labels were estimated, adjusting for prelabeling trends. All menu items, continuously available items, items newly introduced to menus, and items removed from menus were examined separately.

          Results

          Among the 59 restaurant chains included in the study, after labeling, there were no changes in mean calorie content for all menu items (change = −2.0 calories; 95% CI, −8.5 to 4.4 calories) or continuously available items (change = −2.3 calories; 95% CI, −11.5 to 6.3 calories). Items that were newly introduced after labeling, however, had a lower mean calorie content than items introduced before labeling (change = −112.9 calories; 95% CI, −208.6 to −25.2 calories), although there was heterogeneity by restaurant type. Items removed from menus after labeling had similar calorie content as items removed before labeling (change = 0.5 calories; 95% CI, −79.4 to 84.0 calories).

          Conclusions and Relevance

          In this cohort study of large chain restaurants, implementing calorie labels on menus was associated with the introduction of lower-calorie items but no changes in continuously available or removed items.

          Abstract

          This cohort study uses data from the MenuStat database to examine the calorie content of menu items at large chain restaurants before and after implementation of federally mandated menu calorie labels.

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          Most cited references35

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          Controlling the False Discovery Rate: A Practical and Powerful Approach to Multiple Testing

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                JAMA Netw Open
                JAMA Netw Open
                JAMA Network Open
                American Medical Association
                2574-3805
                30 December 2021
                December 2021
                30 December 2021
                : 4
                : 12
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
                [2 ]Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
                [3 ]Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
                Author notes
                Article Information
                Accepted for Publication: November 4, 2021.
                Published: December 30, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.41353
                Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2021 Grummon AH et al. JAMA Network Open.
                Corresponding Author: Anna H. Grummon, PhD, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 655 Huntington, Boston, MA 02115 ( agrummon@ 123456hsph.harvard.edu ).
                Author Contributions: Drs Grummon and Petimar had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. Drs Grummon and Petimar are co–first authors.
                Concept and design: Grummon, Petimar, Bleich, Block.
                Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: All authors.
                Drafting of the manuscript: Grummon, Petimar, Bleich.
                Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: All authors.
                Statistical analysis: Grummon, Petimar, Soto.
                Obtained funding: Bleich, Simon, Block.
                Administrative, technical, or material support: Simon, Cleveland, Rao.
                Supervision: Grummon, Bleich, Simon, Block.
                Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Drs Grummon, Bleich, and Block reported receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the conduct of the study. Dr Petimar reported receiving grants from the Center for Science in the Public Interest outside the submitted work. Ms Simon reported receiving grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases during the conduct of the study. No other disclosures were reported.
                Funding/Support: The study was funded by grant R01DK115492 from the NIH. Drs Grummon and Petimar were supported by grant T32HL098048 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
                Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funding sources had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.
                Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the authors.
                Article
                zoi211158
                10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.41353
                8719240
                34967879
                8a667af9-5fa4-41a8-9c57-cc4d7a7f960a
                Copyright 2021 Grummon AH et al. JAMA Network Open.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License.

                Categories
                Research
                Original Investigation
                Online Only
                Public Health

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