What is the potential impact of calorie labelling in worksite cafeterias? A pilot study

Reducing excess consumption of food and drink is core to tackling the high prevalence of overweight and obesity in the UK and elsewhere. The results of a recent Cochrane review of nutritional labelling suggest that calorie labelling at point of consumption in restaurant settings has the potential to reduce average daily energy intake from food and drinks by an estimated 7.8% per meal (see Crockett et al., 2018). However, the synthesised effect size was based on limited evidence derived from three randomised controlled trials in US restaurant settings. Moreover, there were no studies in worksite cafeterias that met the review inclusion criteria. It is estimated that about one third of our daily energy intake is consumed while at work, with the majority of food consumed not brought from home.

In this paper we provide the results of a pilot trial estimating the potential impact of calorie labelling on energy purchased across six worksite cafeterias. Post-intervention feedback amongst cafeteria patrons and worksite managers and caterers suggested high levels of acceptability. Several barriers to intervention implementation were identified, including chefs’ discretion at implementing recipes and the manual recording of sales data. The predicted effect of labelling to reduce energy purchased was only evident at one out of six sites studied. Before progressing to a full trial, we propose that the calorie labelling intervention needs to be optimised, and a number of operational issues resolved.


Impact of calorie labelling in worksite cafeterias: a stepped wedge randomised controlled pilot trial. Vasiljevic M, Cartwright E, Pilling M, Lee M-M, Bignardi G, Pechey R, Hollands GJ, Jebb SA, Marteau TM, 2018

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