The Impact of Mandatory Disclosure Laws on Product Choices: An Analysis of the Salad Dressing Market

Posted: 20 Jul 2000  

Alan D. Mathios

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM)

Abstract

The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) requires most food products to include a nutrition label. Prior to the NLEA labeling was voluntary. This study uses nutrition label information and supermarket scanner data pre and post-NLEA to examine the impact of moving from a voluntary to mandatory labeling regime on consumer product choice. The voluntary unraveling of information is shown to be an important market mechanism. Prior to the NLEA all low-fat salad dressings had a nutrition label, while the majority of the higher fat dressings did not. However, there remained large variation in fat content among dressings that did not voluntarily label. Those with the highest fat levels experienced a significant decline in sales after they were required to disclose. The results indicate that even in markets with credible, low-cost mechanisms to disclose, mandatory labeling can have an impact on consumer behavior and health.

Suggested Citation

Mathios, Alan D., The Impact of Mandatory Disclosure Laws on Product Choices: An Analysis of the Salad Dressing Market. Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 43, No. 2, October 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=231780

Alan D. Mathios (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM) ( email )

120 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-2589 (Phone)
607-255-0799 (Fax)

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