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Fast Food restaurants are not displaying all energy (kilojoule) information on menus

13th August 2015 - Cancer prevention

New research from Cancer Council NSW has revealed that only 3 per cent of fast food outlets listed kilojoule information for their entire product range despite mandatory labelling laws being introduced in some states from 2012.

The research was a follow up study from research conducted in 197 McDonalds, KFC, Hungry Jacks, Subway and Red Rooster outlets across five states and investigated the availability and accessibility of nutrition information both before and after the introduction of the menu laws in NSW.

Despite these laws that aim to add more transparency for consumers around energy (kilojoule) content of fast food products, some well-known chains are not including all kilojoule information for all menu items, and are only including popular items and latest offers on menu boards.

Cancer Council NSW, Nutrition Program Manager and study co-author, Clare Hughes said the research revealed how certain fast food chains had in theory adapted to the new laws, however most weren’t complying with the ‘spirit’ of the kilojoule labelling laws, by not listing kilojoule information for all products on menu boards.

“The good news for consumers is that our results showed that these fast food chains, had introduced kilojoule labelling across Australia, even in states that don’t require it by law. However, if fast food outlets don’t list their entire range on menu boards then customers still aren’t able to make healthier fast food choices,” said, Ms Hughes.  

The study found that kilojoule values were not available for many menu items or meals, including children meals, and in some cases customers were required to calculate the kilojoule content for meals that were not standard size, including medium or larger size meal deals.

“It’s clear that fast food giants are still using menu boards primarily as marketing tools, encouraging people to buy their latest burger or meal deal. They assume that customers know their product line-up or want to push shoppers to buy certain deals, so they don’t bother listing their entire menu. The fewer products on their menu board, the less kilojoule information they provide.

Ms Hughes further says that mandatory labelling laws for packaged foods mean that consumers have come to expect nutrition information panels on supermarket grocery products.

“With Australians spending a third of their weekly food budgets eating at cafés, restaurants and fast food outlets[1], and 63 per cent of Australian adults overweight or obese[2] it’s more important than ever that we can make healthy and informed choices when we eat away from home.

“We know if more information is available in fast food restaurants, people are more likely to make healthier food choices. In a recent NSW study, the average kilojoules purchased was found to significantly decrease by 519kJ[3] since the introduction of kilojoule labelling, so we know energy information is working, we just need it to appear on all items available for purchase.” 

“The fast food industry must start doing more to make sure all menu items are labelled. We know further information and education will increase people’s use and understanding of kilojoule labelling, and help consumers make smarter and healthier food choices when eating out. We’d also like to see national regulation that ensures all consumers can make informed fast food choices wherever they are in Australia.

For more information on cancer prevention and how you can reduce your cancer risk visit http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/cancer-prevention/

– Ends-

Media Contact: Gina Murphy, Cancer Council NSW, 02-9334 1428/ 0413 889 283 ginam@nswcc.org.au

Media interviews: Clare Hughes, Nutrition Program Manager and study co-author

Notes to editors

Journal Article:

The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health: The availability and accessibility of nutrition information in fast food outlets in five states post-menu labelling legislation in New South Wales

Background: This study aimed to investigate the availability and accessibility of fast food energy and nutrient information post-NSW menu labelling legislation in (2012), in states with and without menu labelling legislation, and; determine whether availability and accessibility differed compared with pre-menu labelling legislation in NSW from a previous Cancer Council NSW study conducted in 2010.

The states surveyed – New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia and fast food chains included – Hungry Jack’s, KFC, McDonald’s, Oporto and Red Rooster. Since the follow up study was conducted in 2012, South Australia and the ACT have introduced menu labelling laws.

Key Findings:

  • In 2012 half of outlets surveyed provided information for nutrients other than energy – e.g. saturated fat, sugars or sodium.
  • Only 3 per cent of outlets provided information for the entire menu, including children’s meals.
  • Compared to 2010, there was significantly less nutrition information listing nutrients other than energy in 2012

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics. 6530.0 Household Expenditure Survey, Australia: Detailed expenditure items, 2009-10. ABS 2011 [cited 2015 Aug 5];

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12. Canberra, Australia: Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2013 Jun.

[3] NSW Food Authority. Evaluation of kilojoule menu labelling. Sydney: NSW Food Authority; 2013.

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