Do You Know How Much You’re Eating?

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Lauren Mattiuzzo

By May 7th, 2018, restaurants and food establishments in the United States will be required to comply with requirements to add calorie information labels to foods that are offered and served. In early February, the House passed legislation which would amend how restaurants would provide the calorie count. Although restaurant owners are in favor of the updated legislation, public health experts are raising concerns.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was enacted by the 111th United States Congress and signed into law by former President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Section 4205 of Obamacare mandates nutrition labeling in certain restaurants and food establishments. The provision also requires calorie labeling of certain vending machines. After several delays, the mandate will now take effect on May 7, 2018. Many restaurant owners view this as expensive and an unrealistic expectation. The House passed legislation in February 2018 which provides flexibility for businesses to meet the requirements. More than 150 food service industry organizations signed a letter sent to Congress expressing their support of this bill. Public health experts are concerned this flexibility would allow room for restaurants to mislead consumers. The legislation would allow carry-out restaurants to post their information on the internet, instead of disclosing the information on menus in the restaurant. Additionally, restaurant owners could provide calories per serving for a multiserving menu item, such as an appetizer, without disclosing the total amount of calories. If the legislation is violated, a food establishment would have 90 days to correct the violation.

Some restaurants such as McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Starbucks, and Applebee’s already have nutrition labeling on their menus, expressing support for a federal menu labeling standard. According to a research article posted in Health Affairs, the mean per item calorie content between the years 2012-2014 was lower for restaurants who voluntarily offered nutritional menu labeling than for those who did not. The study was conducted across sixty-six of the largest U.S. restaurant chains and shows that calorie labeling may compel restaurants to serve lower-calorie items. According to Consumer Reports, a recent study published by the independent Cochrane Collaboration showed that people eating out chose meals with 8-12 percent fewer calories when menus included calorie counts.

HeinOnline Searching Tips

Want to research this topic further in HeinOnline, but not sure where to start? Take a look at the Search Help option located under the search bar on the HeinOnline welcome page. This is a short guide providing search syntax and lists of Boolean operators. For more advanced searching tips, click on the Advanced Search Syntax Guide within the Search Help option.

Let’s construct a proximity search, which looks for words within a particular proximity of one another. Navigate to the Law Journal Library and using the Full Text tab enter “nutrition labeling restaurant”~20 and hit the search button.

Next, sort the results by Volume Date, Newest First and find relevant articles such as Does this Law Make My Butt Look Big? Part II: No, But Food Does: An Overview of the FDA’s Menu Labeling Requirements and Menu Labeling: The Unintended Consequences to the Consumer.

Also, take a look at Encouraging Healthy Eating through legislation? The Case for Mandatory Menu LabelsUse the More Like This button to locate articles similar to the current article.

This machine learning and natural language processing tool uses a program which pulls out “interesting words,” as determined by an algorithm, from the article being viewed. Users are provided with a list of similar articles, based on the interesting words. Change the boost factors on the interesting words, enter a new term, or include a date range to change the scope of results.

Another option for searching in the Law Journal Library is using the Keyword Search Builder. This tool is located in the Advanced Search option. To use this tool, enter keywords into one or more of the boxes provided. Adjust the weight of each word using the boost factors. Users can also select a title to search within or enter a date range to narrow down the search results. For this example, search for the words nutrition, label, FDA, food, and calorie. Apply a weight to each word and click Submit.

Similar to the More Like This option, users can change the scope of the results by adjusting boost factors, entering a new term, or including a date range.

Next, navigate to the U.S. Congressional Documents database. Using the Full Text tab, enter “nutrition labeling” and click the search button. Using quotations will find documents containing that exact phrase.

Sort the results by choosing Volume Date (Newest First). Note the variety of documents in this results list, including volumes from Congressional Record, Congressional Hearings, CRS Reports, Committee Prints, Congressional Reports, and more.

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