Nutrition Labels and Obesity

38 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2006 Last revised: 20 Jan 2014

See all articles by Jayachandran N. Variyam

Jayachandran N. Variyam

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Economic Research Service (ERS)

John Cawley

Cornell University - College of Human Ecology, Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM); Cornell University - College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Economics; Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE); National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) - J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics; NBER; IZA

Date Written: January 2006

Abstract

The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) imposed significant changes in the information about calories and nutrients that manufacturers of packaged foods must provide to consumers. This paper tests whether the release of this information impacted body weight and obesity among American adults. We estimate the effect of the new label using a difference-in-differences method. We compare the change before and after the implementation of NLEA in body weight among those who use labels when food shopping to that among those who do not use labels. In National Health Interview Survey data we find, among non-Hispanic white women, that the implementation of the new labels was associated with a decrease in body weight and the probability of obesity. Using NLEA regulatory impact analysis benchmarks, we estimate that the total monetary benefit of this decrease in body weight was $63 to $166 billion over a 20-year period, far in excess of the costs of the NLEA.

Suggested Citation

Variyam, Jayachandran N. and Cawley, John, Nutrition Labels and Obesity (January 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w11956, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=877461

Jayachandran N. Variyam

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Economic Research Service (ERS) ( email )

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Cornell University - College of Human Ecology, Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM) ( email )

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