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Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 4, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Calorie labeling: Can have meaningful effects

The article “Health law to put calorie info on vending machines” [News, Dec. 29] presents an incomplete picture of the effectiveness of calorie labeling.

Our study in King County was the first long-term look at the impact on customers’ choices of including calorie information in menus. We found that at 18 months post-regulation, calories purchased decreased. (Previous studies including the New York City study cited and our study show that 6 months after requiring labeling, calories purchased did not change).

Based on studies to date, menu labeling results in small, but meaningful, reductions in calories purchased, particularly among the 20 percent of patrons who use the labels. Labels on vending machines may be even more effective in shaping customer choice, as mentioned in the article.

Labels also may affect the food options presented to customers. Restaurants are making their offerings healthier, perhaps motivated by the increased visibility menu labeling gives to the caloric content of their food, and vending machine suppliers may do the same. No single approach will decrease alarmingly high obesity rates, but calorie labels will help customers make informed and healthy choices.

James Krieger, chief of chronic disease and injury prevention at Public Health — Seattle & King County

Comments | More in Food/nutrition | Topics: Calories, labeling

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