This project aims to understand the impact of calorie labelling in England. For example, what is the effect of the policy on people’s diets and health?
Diet related disease, including obesity, is a major public health burden in England. Almost two thirds of adults are above a healthy weight and one in five children are living with obesity by the time they leave primary school. This puts a large part of the population at increased risk of diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. The cost of these diseases for individuals, the NHS and society are high.
An unhealthy diet is a key driver of obesity and food environments play a role in determining whether you have a healthy diet. Food and drinks prepared away from the home are typically less healthy than food prepared at home and are widely available in England where there is a high density of (fast-food) restaurants, and online food delivery services are developing rapidly. This increases people’s access to foods that are high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar.
In April 2022, the government introduced a mandatory calorie labelling policy in England that requires large businesses selling food and drinks for immediate consumption (e.g., restaurants, cafes, fast food chains) to display calorie information at the point of purchase. The aim of this policy is to help people make healthier decisions when buying food prepared outside the home and to encourage businesses to provide healthier and lower calorie options.
This project will contribute to the evidence base about how calorie labelling influences health.
Design and methods
The project will be divided into four main areas of work:
- Measuring changes in food and drink purchases before and after the labelling policy came into effect, this will be done using a nationally representative database of purchases for out-of-home consumption
- Modelling the impact of the changes in purchasing due to labelling policy on population health outcomes and health care costs
- Measuring changes in the availability and prices of foods within restaurants and online delivery platforms before and after the policy was introduced
- Exploring the views of young people about the policy and their priorities for change within local food environments (this policy is particularly relevant to adolescents who are a key demographic of out-of-home food consumption)
We work closely with two panels of young people across two case study sites to inform framing of the project and design of the fourth area of work. The young people will be involved throughout the project.
Findings from the project will be communicated through policy stakeholder meetings, a dissemination event, research briefing, presentations at conferences and publications in academic journals. The young people involved will also help advise on how to present and disseminate the findings to various audiences.