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EMAC 2019 Annual Conference

Mandatory Calorie Disclosure: Does it Work and How to Make it More Effective

Published: May 28, 2019


Youngju Kim, Neoma Business School; Neeraj Arora, University of Wisconsin, Madison; LIN BOLDT, University of Central Florida


calorie labeling; calorie tax; calorie availability


Obesity is a challenging public health problem, and policymakers are seeking solutions to combat its serious health effects. In one such solution, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines require calorie labeling for standard menu items in restaurants. In this research, we focus on the impact of mandatory calorie labeling. We also considered other policies—namely, high-calorie tax and the restricted availability of calorie ranges. We investigated how particular subgroups may be affected differently by different policies. The results indicated that consumers are affected by the intervention. Mandatory calorie labeling was related to calorie consumption. The choice set composition also affected calorie consumption. Individuals consumed fewer calories when the offerings included more low-calorie options and greater calories when the offerings included more high-calorie options. Adding a high-calorie tax to the FDA’s calorie labeling did not reduce calorie consumption overall, but it had a significant impact in certain conditions and for certain consumer segments.