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Should We Have Warnings on Restaurant Menus?

What is the right about of data to help us make good choices?

People reading warnings on restaurant menus

When we eat out it can be a challenge to identify the menu items where added sugars are lurking—a problem that could be rectified with warnings on restaurant menus that were more forthcoming on their sweet ways.

According to a University of California, Davis, study involving a national survey sampling of more than 1,300 adults, seeing a warning icon on a restaurant menu may help consumers identify items with high amounts of added sugar and perhaps convince them to reach for healthier items like water.

The researchers reported in Preventive Medicine that added-sugar warnings with icons plus text, or only icons which resembled stop, yield and “caution” traffic signs, were effective at getting a “high added sugar” warning message across to people.

With excess added sugar in our food supply being a driver of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes in America, the study authors believe a menu-labeling requirement like this could help consumers make more informed decisions and have an important impact on the health of the general public. Requiring these warnings on restaurant menus could also incentivize restaurants to offer a wider variety of options that are not high in added sugar.

The Food and Drug Administration requires large chain restaurants to make some nutrition information available in restaurants, including calorie counts of menu items, but there is currently no requirement for added sugar to be publicly disclosed for restaurant foods.

Should restaurants be required to disclose the amount of added sugars in their food and drinks? Would this help improve the nutritional quality of people’s diets? Would this information impact the items you order? Is this another example of too much regulation? Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected].

See also: Calories in Restaurant Menu Items

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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