Assessment of Calories Purchased After Calorie Labeling of Prepared Foods in a Large Supermarket Chain

Assessment of Calories Purchased After Calorie Labeling of Prepared Foods in a Large Supermarket Chain

Published: Aug 01, 2022
Publisher: JAMA Internal Medicine (online ahead of print)
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Authors

Joshua Petimar

Anna H. Grummon

Fang Zhang

Steven L. Gortmaker

Alyssa J. Moran

Michele Polacsek

Eric B. Rimm

Christina A. Roberto

Anjali Rao

Lauren P. Cleveland

Denise Simon

Rebecca L. Franckle

Sue Till

Julie Greene

Jason P. Block

Importance

Calorie labels for prepared (ie, ready-to-eat) foods are required in large chain food establishments in the US. Large evaluations in restaurants suggest small declines in purchases of prepared foods after labeling, but to the authors’ knowledge, no studies have examined how this policy influences supermarket purchases.

Objective

To estimate changes in calories purchased from prepared foods and potential packaged substitutes compared with control foods after calorie labeling of prepared foods in supermarkets.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This controlled interrupted time series compared sales 2 years before labeling implementation (April 2015-April 2017) with sales 7 months after labeling implementation (May 2017-December 2017). Data from 173 supermarkets from a supermarket chain with locations in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont were analyzed from March 2020 to May 2022.

Intervention

Implementation of calorie labeling of prepared foods in April 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Purchased items were classified as prepared foods, potential packaged substitutes for prepared foods, or all other (i.e., control) foods. The primary outcome was mean weekly calories per transaction purchased from prepared foods, and the secondary outcome was mean weekly calories per transaction purchased from similar packaged items (for substitution analyses). Analyses of prepared and packaged foods were stratified by food category (bakery, entrées and sides, or deli meats and cheeses).

Results

Among the included 173 supermarkets, calorie labeling was associated with a mean 5.1% decrease (95% CI, −5.8% to −4.4%) in calories per transaction purchased from prepared bakery items and an 11.0% decrease (95% CI, −11.9% to −10.1%) from prepared deli items, adjusted for changes in control foods; no changes were observed for prepared entrées and sides (change = 0.3%; 95% CI, −2.5% to 3.0%). Labeling was also associated with decreased calories per transaction purchased from packaged bakery items (change = −3.9%; 95% CI, −4.3% to −3.6%), packaged entrées and sides (change = −1.2%; 95% CI, −1.4% to −0.9%), and packaged deli items (change = −2.1%; 95% CI, −2.4% to −1.7%).

Conclusions and Relevance

In this longitudinal study of supermarkets, calorie labeling of prepared foods was associated with small to moderate decreases in calories purchased from prepared bakery and deli items without evidence of substitution to similar packaged foods.

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