Not Quite Time for Change II

In October 2009 I posted the first Not Quite Time for Change Blog about the menu labeling bill in New York City, and the lack of results in healthier ordering to come from it.  I have similar findings to report form you from King County Washington’s menu labeling bill.


The King County Menu Labeling Law has been in effect for over a year now, and although King County residents may be coming accustomed to seeing calorie counts on menus and menu boards when they go out to chain restaurants, it doesn’t seem to be having much affect on what they actually end up ordering.  These findings come from a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that examined ordering patterns at seven Taco Time locations.  They compared ordering patterns from before and after the law had taken affect, and the results:  Nada. 


Some think that these results, along with the New York study in 2009 with similar results show that these menu labeling laws are a waste of time, and will not have any effect on America’s obesity epidemic.  But others, like me, think that it’s just too soon to influence behavioral change.  This isn’t the first time we have seen slow progress towards healthy patterns; take smoking...


In the 1960’s new medical information came out that linked smoking cigarettes to poor health and some cancers; kind of like how recently obesity has been linked to health complications like diabetes and hypertension.  The US Surgeon General Warning about cigarettes came out in 1964.  Let’s take a look at the effect that had on smoking rates:

As you can see, the warning did not give result in an instant decline in smoking, but rates did eventually decline by quite a bit.  And now, 40 plus years later smoking itself isn’t nearly as glamorous as it was in the 50’s and 60’s.  This may be an indication that people will come around to ordering healthier items in due time. 


What do you think, is menu labeling all for nothing, or do we just need to give it a few years?  

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  • As with the smoking trend, I believe the menu labeling will probably not have much affect on the adults of today that are set in their ways and refuse to believe that the junk they are eating is contributing to thier poor health.  It is the younger generation that it will have the most affect on.  I believe in the next 10-15 years we could see a positive trend of healthier adults if we continue to educate the youth on nutrition. 
  • I think for those who already follow a healthier diet, the menu labeling may benefit them, for those who have limited knowledge about what to do with the numbers (calorie count, fat, sodium) there may not be a difference for a few years. The menu labeling really only benefits people who can understand what those numbers mean to them and their health. 

    Most likely, if you don't know how many calories/fat calories etc. to consume per meal, the numbers won't make a difference in what you order. That said, it will probably take a few years before we see a significant change in what is ordered based on the demand and popularity of eating healthier, as more people become aware and care about what they consume and what it does to their health.

  • Great piece!
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