Vol 22, 2013 Annals of Health Law
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE FOOD SYSTEM
develop innovative approaches to help consumers receive nutritional
information about foods they consume outside of the home. For example,
localities may introduce menu-labeling regulations for restaurants that have
fewer than twenty locations. They can enact ordinances or regulations that
require these restaurants to post calories as well as additional nutrition
information (e.g., information about sodium, trans fat, sugar, cholesterol).
Localities could require display of this information on menus and menu
boards in ways that would help consumers better understand the information
(e.g., listing items on a menu from lowest calorie content to highest calorie
content).79 Because the ACA does not impose menu-labeling requirements
on non-restaurant establishments, such as movie theaters and bowling
alleys,80 localities might also consider introducing menu labeling regulations
for these entities. If localities do pioneer these types of regulatory approaches
for menu labeling, they can work with researchers to conduct evaluations that
analyze whether the regulations are associated with healthier eating decisions
among consumers.81 These findings can then serve as an evidence base for
other localities considering similar regulations.
C. Introducing Novel Regulatory Approaches
Menu labeling has also become a quintessential example of how local
innovation can influence national policy. Initially, in the mid-2000s, a
handful of localities including New York City and King County, Washington
introduced menu-labeling regulations.82 Over the course of approximately
five years, the concept of providing consumers with nutrition information
while dining out garnered attention from policy-makers at the national level.
79. See Peggy J. Liu, Christina A. Roberto, Linda J. Liu & Kelly D. Brownell, A Test of
Different Menu Labeling Presentations, 59 APPETITE 770, 775 (2012) (“[T]he findings from
this study suggest that presenting menu items with calorie information ordered from low to
high values might be more likely to lead consumers to make healthier choices than presenting
the information in no particular order.”).
80. U.S. Food & Drug Admin., Questions and Answers on the New Menu and Vending
Machines Nutrition Labeling Requirements (last updated Nov. 16, 2012), http://www.
81. E.g., Brian Elbel, Rogan Kersh, Victoria L. Brescoll & L. Beth Dixon, Calorie
Labeling and Food Choices: A First Look at the Effects on Low-Income People in New York
City, 28 HEALTH AFF. w1110 (2009); Tamara Dumanovsky, Christina Y. Huang, Mary T.
Bassett & Lynn D. Silver, Consumer Awareness of Fast-Food Calorie Information in New
York City After Implementation of a Menu Labeling Regulation, 100 AM. J. PUB. HEALTH 2520
(2010); Pooja S. Tandon et al., The Impact of Menu Labeling on Fast-Food Purchases for
Children and Parents, 41 AM. J. PREVENTIVE MED. 434 (2011).
82. Rutkow et al., supra note 4; Press Release, King County Board of Health, Menu
Labeling, Trans Fat Ban Approved by the Board of Health (July 19, 2007), available at