JAN 11, 2023 9:35 AM PST

How Climate Change is Impacting Fast Food Menus, Labels, & Choices

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

A randomized clinical trial investigated the positive and negative impact of climate effects on the food choices made by consumers. There is a growing trend to include menu labels that indicate an item’s potential impact on the world’s climate and environment. This particular research team was interested in finding out how labels on food that discuss environmental sustainability can impact an individuals’ food choice. The primary outcome of the study is that consumers tend to select the more sustainable option (i.e., one without red meat) when informed. Secondary outcomes included participant health perceptions of the selected item and the Nutrition Profile Index (NPI) score of healthfulness. The findings of this nationally representative sample are published in JAMA Network Open.  

To study the positive and negative climate impacts of menu labels on adult food choices, the researchers analyzed the menu choices of 5,049 participants during a food selection task. This trial used an online national US survey conducted from March 30 to April 13, 2022. Participants were assigned to a high-climate impact label, a low-climate impact label, or the control group. They were then prompted to select 1 item they would like to order for dinner when shown a menu. 

Participants were randomized to view menus with 1 of 3 label conditions: 

  • A quick response code label on all items (control group); 
  • Green low–climate impact label on chicken, fish, or vegetarian items (positive framing); 
  • Or red high–climate impact label on red meat items (negative framing).

Roughly 23.5% more participants in the high–climate impact label condition ordered a sustainable item, and 10% more participants in the low–climate impact label condition ordered a sustainable item when compared with the control group.

The findings suggest that climate-impact menu labels may be an effective strategy to promote more sustainable restaurant food choices and that labels highlighting high–climate impact items may be most effective. Environmentally-conscious consumers, business owners, and nutrition experts are interested in strategies that promote more sustainable food choices in US restaurants. More research is needed to determine the most effective label designs for encouraging sustainable food choices.

Sources: Eureka News Alert, JAMA Network Open 

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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