Attaching JSON data to menu items in WordPress

I’ve had a need to attach some data to WordPress menu items and have modified the ajaxnav\WalkerAjaxNavMenu class I’m using in a block plugin to do the job.
Since the theme I’m developing makes heavy use of JavaScript attaching a data attribute to each menu element made sense.
I’m defining a custom Walker here and since I’m working on the single element level the start_el method is the entry point, $this->settings will store previously fetched settings.

public function start_el(&$output, $item, $depth = 0, $args = array(), $id = 0)
        $jsonItemAttribute = '';

        // if the developer so wishes a JSON version of the item can be
        // attached to the menu item itself
        if ($this->settings->attachJsonItem) {

            $postType = $item->type;

            // posts and pages will require more fetching
            $toFetch = array('post_type');
            if (in_array($postType, $toFetch)) {
                $postItem = get_post($item->object_id);
            } else {
                $postItem = $item;

            $values = array();

            // no values but wants to attach json data then return all 
            if (!$this->settings->jsonItemKeys) {
                // return all values
                $values = (array)$item;
            } else {
                // there are some keys: return those only

                // from a comma separated list to an array
                $jsonItemKeys = explode(',', $this->settings->jsonItemKeys);

                // iterate over the array and store matching values
                foreach ($item as $key => $value) {
                    if (in_array($key, $jsonItemKeys)) {
                        $values[$key] = $value;

            // create a json value object
            $encoded = json_encode($values);

            // create the complete `data-item` attribute
            $jsonItemAttribute = sprintf('data-item=\'%s\'', $encoded);

        $indent = str_repeat("\t", $depth);

        // append the element to the output
        $output .= sprintf('%s<div class="menu-item" %s><a href="%s">%s</a>', $jsonItemAttribute, $item->url, $item->title);

and this will produce markup like

<div class="menu-item" data-item='{"ID":1765,"post_excerpt":","type":"taxonomy","description":"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua."}'>
    <a href="">

where I’ve chosen to print the post ID, excerpt, type and description in the attribute. Later in the script I will use

   var data = $(this).data('item');

   // do something with the data...