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How the Perceived Healthfulness of Restaurant Menu Items Influences Sodium and Calorie Misperceptions: Implications for Nutrition Disclosures in Chain Restaurants






  • Scot Burton ( is a Distinguished Professor and Walmart Chair in the Department of Marketing, Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas. Andrea Heintz Tangari ( is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University, Department of Marketing. Elizabeth Howlett ( is a Professor in the Department of Marketing, Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas. Anna M. Turri ( is an Assistant Professor at Texas State University, Department of Marketing, McCoy College of Business Administration. The authors gratefully acknowledge support for this research from the Center for Retailing Excellence, Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.


The authors address some implications of recent legislation that will require calorie labeling for national chain restaurants. Drawing from the health halo and information disclosure literatures, the potential positive consumer outcomes associated with the disclosure of calorie (only) and additional nutrient information are examined. Results across four studies show that while most consumers underestimate calorie levels of restaurant menu items, the degree of underestimation is substantially greater for sodium. The provision of sodium content levels for menu items, in addition to calorie information, influences purchase intentions and choices of consumers with high health risk levels, but has little effect on other consumers. Reducing Americans' average daily intake of sodium (currently 3,400 mg) to the recommended level of 2,300 mg could eliminate 11 million cases of high blood pressure and prevent 92,000 annual deaths (Palar and Sturm 2009). Therefore, the results have potentially significant implications for consumer health and welfare and the restaurant industry.