by Jason P. Block, MD, MPH
We’ve now been waiting 4 long years for its implementation. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released preliminary regulations on schedule in April 2011. But, since then, silence. No final regulations. Delays have resulted from myriad factors: controversies regarding whether movie theatres and supermarkets must comply; a presidential election that led to a halt in many regulations; and competing priorities that intervened, including FDA’s proposed revisions to the nutrition facts panel on packaged foods. But, the time for the final regulations is near . . . maybe. After 3+ years of delay in the final regulations, one cannot be very confident.
Will calorie labeling work? The jury is still out. A recent systematic review concluded that menu labeling appears to work in some circumstances. Labeling seems to work best for women and diners who are presented with information putting meal calorie counts into context, such as when information about total daily calorie requirements also is presented. The best evidence may have to wait until we have long term data. Some of these studies are in process, including a study that we are doing in New England, which will evaluate the effect of menu labeling at McDonald’s. Starting in 2013, McDonald’s voluntary posted calorie labels on menus. We have data from 6 restaurant chains, collected annually from 2010 through 2014. Of those chains, only McDonald’s posted calories on menus, giving us the opportunity to explore the effect of McDonald’s labeling program.
More definitive results might have to wait until the federal law is finally implemented. The wait may soon be over.