Economic Research Report No. (ERR-4) 28 pp

April 2005

Nutrition Labeling in the Food-Away-From-Home Sector: An Economic Assessment

Americans spent about 46 percent of their total food budget on food away from home in 2002, up from 27 percent in 1962. Such foods tend to be less nutritious and higher in calories than foods prepared at home, and some studies have linked eating away from home to overweight and obesity in adults and children. Current nutrition labeling law exempts much of the food-away-from-home sector from mandatory labeling regulations. Because consumers are less likely to be aware of the ingredients and nutrient content of away-from-home food than of foods prepared at home, public health advocates have called for mandatory nutrition labeling for major sources of food away from home, such as fast-food and chain restaurants. This report provides an economic assessment of a food-away-from-home nutrition labeling policy, including justifications for policy intervention and potential costs and benefits of the policy.

Keywords: Diet quality, food labeling, government regulation, health, mandatory disclosure, nutrition information, Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, obesity, reformulation

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