Compliance in 2017 With Federal Calorie Labeling in 90 Chain Restaurants and 10 Retail Food Outlets Prior to Required Implementation

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Abstract

Objectives

To examine early compliance with the delayed federal calorie labeling regulation that requires posting calories on menus and menu boards at retail food chains with 20 or more establishments nationally.

Methods

We explored implementation of calorie labeling at 90 of the largest US chain restaurants and the 10 highest-grossing supermarket chains from May to December 2017. We contacted corporate offices and at least 2 locations for each chain, made site visits when possible, and supplemented these efforts with targeted Internet searches.

Results

Overall, 71 (79%) restaurant chains partially or fully implemented labeling, as did 9 (90%) supermarket chains. Fast-food and fast-casual restaurants fully implemented labeling at a modestly higher rate than did full-service restaurants.

Conclusions

Most of the retail food chains we assessed implemented calorie labeling policies in advance of the May 2018 compliance date.

Public Health Implications

Although implementation of federal calorie labeling has been delayed repeatedly in the 8 years since the passage of the legislation, retail food chains have demonstrated a high rate of compliance with calorie labeling in advance of the required May 2018 implementation date. Despite reports from some retail food industries that compliance will be difficult, current implementation shows the feasibility of complying.

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