Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 105, Issue 5, pp e354–e361 | Cite as

Restaurant menu labelling: Is it worth adding sodium to the label?

  • Mary J. Scourboutakos
  • Paul N. Corey
  • Julio Mendoza
  • Spencer J. Henson
  • Mary R. L’AbbéEmail author
Quantitative Research


OBJECTIVE: Several provincial and federal bills have recommended various forms of menu labelling that would require information beyond just calories; however, the additional benefit of including sodium information is unknown. The objective of this study was to determine whether sodium information on menus helps consumers make lower-sodium choices and to understand what other factors influence the effect of menu labelling on consumers’ meal choices.

METHODS: A total of 3,080 Canadian consumers completed an online survey that included a repeated measures experiment in which consumers were asked to select what they would typically order from four mock-restaurant menus. Subsequently, consumers were randomly allocated to see one of three menu-labelling treatments (calories; calories and sodium; or calories, sodium and serving size) and were given the option to change their order.

RESULTS: There was a significant difference in the proportion of consumers who changed their order, varying from 17% to 30%, depending on the restaurant type. After participants had seen menu labelling, sodium levels decreased in all treatments (p<0.0001). However, in three of the four restaurant types, consumers who saw calorie and sodium information ordered meals with significantly less sodium than consumers who saw only calorie information (p<0.01). Consumers who saw sodium labelling decreased the sodium level of their meal by an average of 171–384 mg, depending on the restaurant. In the subset of consumers who saw sodium information and chose to change their order, sodium levels decreased by an average of 681–1,360 mg, depending on the restaurant. Sex, intent to lose weight and the amount of calories ordered at baseline were the most important predictors of who used menu labelling. Eighty percent of survey panelists wanted to see nutrition information when dining out.

CONCLUSION: Including sodium information alongside calorie information may result in a larger decrease in the amount of sodium ordered by restaurant-goers.


Restaurants fast foods food labelling sodium 


OBJECTIF : Plusieurs projets de loi provinciaux et fédéraux recommandent diverses formes d’étiquetage nutritionnel des menus exigeant davantage d’information que la simple teneur en calories; on ignore cependant quel serait l’avantage supplémentaire d’inclure la teneur en sodium. Notre étude visait à déterminer si l’ajout de la teneur en sodium sur les menus aiderait les consommateurs à choisir des mets plus faibles en sodium; elle visait aussi à comprendre les autres facteurs qui modifient l’effet de l’étiquetage nutritionnel des menus sur les mets choisis par les consommateurs.

MÉTHODE : En tout, 3 080 consommateurs canadiens ont répondu à un sondage en ligne incluant une expérience à mesures répétées au cours de laquelle on leur a demandé de choisir ce qu’ils commanderaient d’habitude aux menus de quatre faux restaurants. Ensuite, les consommateurs ont été répartis de façon aléatoire en trois groupes, et on leur a présenté l’un de trois modes d’étiquetage nutritionnel des menus (calories; calories et sodium; ou calories, sodium et portion), et on leur a donné la possibilité de modifier leur commande.

RÉSULTATS : Il y avait un écart significatif dans la proportion de consommateurs ayant changé leur commande, soit de 17% à 30% selon le type de restaurant. Après que les participants ont vu l’étiquetage nutritionnel des menus, les niveaux de sodium ont diminué pour les trois modes d’étiquetage (p<0,0001). Toutefois, pour trois des quatre types de restaurants, les consommateurs qui ont vu la teneur en calories et en sodium ont commandé des mets contenant significativement moins de sodium que ceux qui n’ont vu que la teneur en calories (p<0,01). Les consommateurs ayant vu l’étiquetage sur le sodium ont réduit le niveau de sodium de leur repas de 171–384 mg en moyenne, selon le restaurant. Dans le sous-ensemble des consommateurs ayant vu la teneur en sodium et choisi de modifier leur commande, les niveaux de sodium ont diminué en moyenne de 681–1 360 mg, selon le restaurant. Le sexe, l’intention de perdre du poids et le nombre de calories des mets commandés à l’origine étaient les principaux prédicteurs des consommateurs ayant utilisé l’étiquetage nutritionnel des menus. Quatre-vingt p. cent des répondants voulaient voir de l’information nutritionnelle quand ils allaient au restaurant.

CONCLUSION : Inclure la teneur en sodium en plus de la teneur en calories pourrait entraîner une plus forte réduction de la quantité de sodium commandée par la clientèle des restaurants.


restaurant aliments de restauration rapide étiquetage aliments sodium 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary J. Scourboutakos
    • 1
  • Paul N. Corey
    • 2
  • Julio Mendoza
    • 3
  • Spencer J. Henson
    • 3
  • Mary R. L’Abbé
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Biostatistics Division, Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource EconomicsUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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