Calorie labeling of standard menu items has been implemented at large restaurant chains across the United States since 2018. The objective of this study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of calorie labeling at large U.S. fast-food chains.
This study evaluated the national implementation of calorie labeling at large fast-food chains from a modified societal perspective and projected its cost-effectiveness over a ten-year period (2018-2027) using the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study microsimulation model. Using evidence from over 67 million fast-food restaurant transactions between 2015 and 2019, the impact of calorie labeling on calorie consumption and obesity incidence was projected. Benefits were estimated across all racial, ethnic, and income groups. Analyses were performed in 2022.
Calorie labeling is estimated to be cost-saving, prevent 550,000 cases of obesity in 2027 alone (95% uncertainty interval (UI): 518,000; 586,000), including 41,500 (95% UI: 33,700; 50,800) cases of childhood obesity, and save $22.60 in health care costs for every $1 spent by society in implementation costs. Calorie labeling is also projected to prevent cases of obesity across all racial and ethnic groups (range between 126-185 cases per 100,000 people) and all income groups (range between 152-186 cases per 100,000 people).
Calorie labeling at large fast-food chains is estimated to be a cost-saving intervention to improve long-term population health. Calorie labeling is a low-cost intervention that is already implemented across the U.S. in large chain restaurants.