Background: Fast food is often high in fat and sugar and can be a significant contributor to weight gain. Provision of consistent nutrition information at point of purchase has been shown to be effective in reducing kilojoules purchased. Several Australian states have mandatory kilojoule labelling in chain outlets but Victoria does not. In the absence of local regulations we investigated whether Victorian chains were implementing kilojoule labelling consistent with other states.
Methods: This study was an instore survey of 129 chain stores in 5 areas across metro and regional Victoria. All fast food, café, takeaway drink and snack, supermarket and bakery chains covered by kilojoule menu labelling legislation in NSW and a major convenience store chain in the survey areas were assessed. Data collection involved observations of kilojoule labelling on menu boards, product tags and takeaway brochures. Stores were scored for consistency with NSW regulations around font size, legibility and labelling on all items.
Results: 94 of 129 stores surveyed were covered by the labelling legislation in NSW. Of the stores surveyed only 11% (n=14) provided kilojoule labelling consistent with NSW regulations. The most common inconsistencies were legibility (60%) and font size (56%). All (100%) fast food outlets and large supermarkets had some kilojoule information available instore. Some casual dining (40%), takeaway drink and snack outlets (75%) and coffee outlets (87%) had some kilojoule information instore. No (0%) bakeries or convenience stores had any kilojoule information instore. Overall only three of the 25 chains had labelling consistent with NSW regulations.
Conclusions/Recommendations: The study findings indicate kilojoule information is available in many Victorian food chains. However it is inconsistent and often difficult to read reducing its impact. Mandatory consistent kilojoule menu labelling and accompanying education is more likely to help consumers make healthier choices in chain food outlets.