Background and Context:
Fast foods in Australia are generally unhealthy, and can contribute to weight gain. Nutrition information at fast food outlets assists customers in making healthier choices. Fast food menu labelling is legislated in several Australian states. Previous research in Australia showed that prior to menu labelling there was insufficient in-store information provided for customers to make informed purchase decisions.
To monitor and report on effects and consequences of the introduction of menu labelling. This would be used to advocate for improvements in the fast food environment, reducing the impact of fast foods on the population’s diet and weight.
Five-year monitoring of fast food nutrient composition was conducted to determine whether menus changed post-menu labelling implementation. In-store observations of the amount and accessibility of nutrition information available, including menu labelling, were conducted.
Menu labelling legislation was first introduced in New South Wales in January 2012, after a 12-month phase-in period. Research was conducted during and after implementation to inform advocacy positions. Feedback was tabled to relevant authorities responsible for the legislation, and used to inform other states implementing menu labelling.
Outcomes/What was learned:
The introduction of menu labelling coincided with improvements in nutrient composition; however this has not been sustained. The amount of detailed nutrition information in-store has dropped post-legislation. Fast food chains exploit a range of loopholes in the legislation to continue to provide incomplete nutrition information in-store. As with any new legislation, unintended loopholes become evident post-implementation. Research on the nutrient composition and availability of nutrition information in-store has allowed the identification of such loopholes. Improvements to the legislation should be made to ensure the impact of unintended consequences is minimised.