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PHLA Virtual Seminar Event Summary: Menu Labeling, May 19, 2010

This Virtual Seminar, moderated by Susan Allan, MD, JD, MPH, Director of the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice & Associate Professor, Department of Health Services, University of Washington, reviewed the legal authority, implementation process, and empirical evidence supporting calorie labeling on restaurant menus.

May 24, 2010

This Virtual Seminar, moderated by Susan Allan, MD, JD, MPH, Director of the Northwest  Center for Public Health Practice & Associate Professor, Department of Health Services, University of Washington, reviewed the legal authority, implementation process, and empirical evidence supporting calorie labeling on restaurant menus.

Amy Eiden, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, King County (WA), discussed state legal authority allowing King County to implement and enforce regulations requiring restaurants with 15 or more locations nationally and at least 1 location in King County to post calorie information on their menus and menu boards.

Dennis Worsham, Regional Health Officer, Public Health - Seattle King County, talked about implementation processes leading to the approval of the regulations. While planning began in 2006, the first regulation was not issued until July 2007. Negotiations with the Washington State Restaurant Association lead to alternative placement options in April 2008. The regulation became effective in January 2009. King County environmental health food inspectors are responsible for enforcement, and thus far there has been a 91% compliance rate among applicable restaurants.

Christina Roberto, Researcher, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University examined the empirical basis for menu labeling nationally. One study showed no difference in eating patterns among low income communities. Another larger study found that consumers ordered lower calorie options after menu labeling took effect, a result confirmed by a third study showing the average calories per order decreased following implementation of calorie labeling. A final study found that anchor statements of the average daily total caloric consumption by adults caused consumers to eat less later in the day as well.

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