A national law requiring calorie information on menus takes effect this week. Restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores with 20 locations are now required to post calorie information on their menus.
If you live in King County, you won’t see much difference because it was an early adopter and passed a menu labeling requirement in 2009.
The idea was to improve public health. But has it had an impact on obesity rates? Well, it’s complicated.
Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition, said the law is not going to solve obesity problems, adding that it’s a socio-economic problem.
Drewnowski said obesity rates in King County have been stable since 2009, not necessarily because of menu labeling.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no use for calorie information, he said.
“We’re giving people a tool to allow them to make better, or more informed decisions,” he said. "I think caloric labeling on menus thus provide for more informed decisions. Are they going to be better decisions? It all depends on your perspective.”
Drewnowski said consumers often make food decisions based on tastes and affordability.
But early studies show menu labeling has increased people’s awareness of portion sizes. Also, it has prompted some restaurants to reduce calories in their foods.