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July 23 2008

Obesity Prevention in the Information Age: Caloric Information at the Point of Purchase

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton, New Jersey.

JAMA. 2008;300(4):433-435. doi:10.1001/jama.300.4.433

A number of public health departments and other public health and medical groups in the United States have advocated for mandatory menu-board labeling of calories and nutritional information as a means to address obesity, whereas national and local restaurant associations have mobilized to block these efforts.

Menu boards can be labeled feasibly with caloric content and selected nutrient data (ie, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar, fiber). Including information about nutrients offers additional benefits to consumers and incentivizes reformulation of products with broader health goals in mind. However, there is a rationale for calorie-only labeling, which stands alone as an effective and politically viable intervention to help address obesity, but there also are credible concerns. Health professionals have an important role in this debate, which must include seeking answers to outstanding policy questions.