Friday, February 18, 2011

Menu labeling: Give it time

Recently I posted 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?  


  1. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, smoking can double an adolescent’s risk of developing long-term low-back pain.

    502 high school students were studied for a one-year period. Researchers investigated the influence of various risk factors on pain development including high growth spurt, poor flexibility, poor abdominal strength, physical activity, work, mental health and smoking. Data was collected from student questionnaires and physical measurements.

    17% of participating students reported low back pain. A major growth spurt (more than two inches in six months) was the most noticeable risk factor, tripling the odds of pain.

    All of the other contributors to pain, such as smoking, working out, poor flexibility in the major upper-leg muscles, were preventable. Educate your teenagers about the causes and risk factors associated with low back pain — about the consequences they will face in later life, if precautions aren’t taken during their teen years.

    Advise them to avoid smoking — also to stretch leg muscles prior to working out; and if weight lifting, to follow the proper techniques, while being careful not to over-do it.

    SOURCE: “Helping teens avoid back pain,”“To Your Health” newsletter, September 12, 2001. Electronic Cigarettes