Calorie labeling of menus: a feasibility study in a university cafeteria

; ; ; (). Calorie labeling of menus: a feasibility study in a university cafeteria: Poster. In: International Congress of Nutrition 2013. Granada, Spain: IUNS, SEN.

Nutrition is becoming increasingly important in the food service and catering industry due to the high frequency of eating out, a trend which might contribute to chronic illness and obesity. Nutritional labeling has been proposed to encourage healthier menu choices, but there is still no consensus on how it should be implemented. Calorie labeling is now mandatory in the USA for chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, and has stimulated interest in Europe, particularly among international caterers. A recent Swiss study at a campus gastronomy restaurant showed that calorie-labeling led to selection of menus with significantly lower energy contents. Indeed further research is needed. The present preliminary study aimed to test calorie-labeling in a university cafeteria. Lunch menus (3) were labelled for three days using a traffic light system, with green, yellow or red corresponding to increasing energy contents. After menu selection, customers completed questionnaires and their reactions were also recorded. The experiment will be repeated and compared with a more complex labeling system recently developed at ZHAW.
In the first testing, a total of 248 students, lecturers and researchers from the university participated. Answers showed 70% of customers took notice of, and 56% found the traffic-light system to be helpful. However, only 17% of customers considered the nutritional data in their menu selection, suggesting a low influence on customers. Further study is required to determine the reasons. Simple adjustments to the labeling system, such as additional nutritional information, might lead to higher influence on customers towards the targeted outcome, i.e. selection of lower calorie menus. Nonetheless, the traffic light system appears to be a good starting point. Further studies should include stricter control of experimental errors associated with food catering, e.g. data collection, menu preparation, portion size and others. Keywords: food service, food catering, labelling, calories, menu.