Since time immemorial food supply has always been less than the energy demands around the world (Peters et al, 2002). However, the situation is different in North American. Food is in abundance and consequently energy supply is more than the energy demands (Peters et al, 2002). This has led to a higher prevalence of Obesity. The environment plays an important role in human behaviour. Individuals should adjust their calorific intake to match their new environment so as to avoid obesity.
Menu labelling, if embraced by everyone, would be the first step in reduction of an individual’s caloric intake. Surprisingly, many people never seek to know the calorific value of the foods they ingest. According to Burton’s (2006) experiment, the consumers’ estimated calories and fat levels of the food were twice lower than the actual amounts. Most people don’t have a clue about the amount of calories in the food and they end up consuming too much nutrients.
When labelling was introduced, the consumers’ food choices were altered (Pulos et al, 2010). People preferred the food with lower calories and fats. (Pulos et al, 2010). Nowadays, many people recognize obesity as a serious health problem. As Kuo’s (2009) point-of-purchase calorie posting method shows, the menu labelling results in the reduction of 100 calories in each meal. When nutrition labelling was presented on children’s menu, parents choose lower calorie menu for their children (Tandon et al, 2010). The experiments conducted conclude that the labelling of calories and nutrient composition helps reduce caloric intakes and the obesity epidemic.
Even though menu labelling helps reduce an individual’s caloric intake, there are few concerns regarding to the labelling. Harnack’s (2008) experiment of the effects of calorie labelling and value size pricing reveals that the labelling process is a long-term project to let the people to recognize the importance. People need to be exposed to the labelling more frequently and for a longer time to help them take their caloric intakes more seriously. This will lead them to reduce it. As Krukowski (2006) shows, there was a gap between the college students and adults in the community as far as their knowledge of reading and understanding of nutrient labelling is concerned. The college students were better in understanding the labels. This discrepancy should be solved by campaigns and easier labelling process (Krukowski et al, 2006).
The long-term project of familiarizing with the labelling is important in order to change individuals’ behaviours (Harnack et al, 2008). Also, as not many people are able to understand the labelling, simple terms like ‘low’, ‘moderate’ and ‘high’ should be used to make all people understand easily (Krukowski et al, 2006). From Roberto’s (2010) experiment, the labelling with a recommended daily caloric requirement impacted the menu choices effectively. Therefore, the combination of the easy labelling, campaigns and a recommended daily nutrient requirement on the labelling would help a great deal in reduction of the obesity epidemic. Low-income people are however less interested in their caloric intakes and as Elbel et al (2009) suggest, more researches are required for the community.
Burton, S., Creyer, EH. , Kees, J. and Huggins, K. (2006). Attacking the obesity epidemic: the potential health benefits of providing nutrition information in restaurants. [Pubmed abstract] Am J Public Health. 96(9):1669-75
Elbel, B., Kersh, R., Brescoll, VL. and Dixon, LB. (2009). Calorie labeling and food choices: a first look at the effects on low-income people in New York City. [Pubmed abstract] Health Aff (Millwood). 28(6):w1110-21
Harnack, LJ.et al. (2008). Effects of calorie labeling and value size pricing on fast food meal choices: Results from an experimental trial. [Pubmed abstract] Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act.5:63.
Krukowski, RA., et al. (2006). Consumers may not use or understand calorie labeling in restaurants. [Pubmed abstract] J Am Diet Assoc. 106(6):917-20.
Kuo, T., Jarosz, CJ., Simon, P. and Fielding, JE. (2009). Menu labeling as a potential strategy for combating the obesity epidemic: a health impact assessment. [Pubmed abstract] Am J Public Health. 99(9):1680-6.
Peters, JC., Wyatt, HR., Donahoo, WT. and Hill, JO. (2002). From instinct to intellect: the challenge of maintaining healthy weight in the modern world. [Pubmed abstract] Obes Rev. 3(2):69-74.
Pulos, E. and Leng, K. (2010). Evaluation of a voluntary menu-labeling program in full-service restaurants. [Pubmed abstract] Am J Public Health. 100(6):1035-9.
Roberto, CA., et al. (2009). Evaluating the impact of menu labeling on food choices and intake. [Pubmed abstract] Am J Public Health. 100(2):312-8.
Tandon PS, Wright J, Zhou C, Rogers CB, Christakis DA. 2010. Nutrition menu labeling may lead to lower-calorie restaurant meal choices for children. [Pubmed abstract] Pediatrics. 125(2):244-8. Epub 2010 Jan 25.