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Restaurant Patrons Order Healthier When Nutritional Info Is Displayed

April 20, 2010

Tacoma-Pierce County, WA ? Results of a study conducted by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department show that when nutritional information is provided on restaurant menus, some restaurant patrons make healthier food choices. The study was published online April 15, 2010 in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers assessed whether labeling restaurant menus with information on the nutrient content of menu items would cause customers to alter their ordering patterns. They observed six full-service restaurants in Pierce County, Washington, that added nutritional information to their menus. They assessed the pre-labeling versus post-labeling difference in the average nutrient content of entrées sold, and surveyed restaurant patrons about whether they noticed the nutritional information and used it in their ordering. The results showed that the average post-labeling entrée sold contained about 15 fewer calories, 1.5 fewer grams of fat and 45 fewer milligrams of sodium than did the average entrée sold before labeling. Furthermore, 71 percent of patrons reported noticing the nutritional information and 34 percent reported using the information in deciding what to order.

"The findings in this study suggest that menu labeling could have significant impact on meals ordered by some individuals. Providing menu labeling causes some customers to consider the nutrient content of the food they're about to order at a critical time in the process of deciding what to eat," according to Elizabeth Pulos, epidemiologist at the Health Department and one of the study's authors.

Menu calorie labeling in chain restaurants is part of the new healthcare reform law recently passed by Congress, but this requirement won't go into effect for several years. In the meantime, many chains already have this kind of information available on their web site.

For more information about the study and a list of restaurants in Pierce County that currently provide menu labeling information, go to http://www.tpchd.org/page.php?id=410.

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