Calorie counts are coming to menus and vending machines near you. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that it has finalized its two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations. “Strikingly, Americans eat and drink about a third of their calories away from home – often consuming less nutritious foods and also underestimating the calories that they eat,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told reporters Monday evening. No single action can fix the obesity epidemic, but the labeling is an important step “that will help consumers make smart, healthy food choices for themselves and for their families.” Some states, localities and large restaurant chains like Panera and McDonald’s are already doing their own forms of menu labeling. “FDA’s menu labeling rules will now provide a consistent nation-wide standard that will apply to many more restaurants and food businesses,” Hamburg said. The FDA reviewed more than 1,100 comments from stakeholders and consumers submitted on the proposed rules, released in 2011. In response, the agency narrowed the types of foods covered to focus on restaurant-type food, built in flexibility for multi-serving dishes like pizza to be labeled by the slice rather than as a whole pie, expanded coverage to include certain entertainment venues like movie theaters and amusement parks and required that certain types of alcohol have labels. Menu labeling will not apply to independent restaurants, bars or grocery stores, nor to food trucks, ice cream trucks or the food served on airplanes and other transportation vehicles. In addition, restaurants will be allowed to offer daily specials or seasonal menu items — a Thanksgiving dinner, for example — without providing the calorie count. To give context to calorie information, menus and menu boards will include the statement: “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” Consumers will also be able to request written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein. In the proposed rules, restaurants and similar retail food establishments would have had six months to comply and vending machine operators would have had one year to comply. In the finalized versions, they will have one year and two years, respectively. The rules were required under the Affordable Care Act. “Menu labeling is the biggest advance in providing nutrition information to consumers since the law that required Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods was implemented 20 years ago,” said Margo G. Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “It will soon seem strange that once it was possible to go into a Chick-fil-A or a Denny’s and not see calories on menus and menu boards. We hope that small chains and independent restaurants provide the same information voluntarily.” The National Restaurant Association President and CEO, Dawn Sweeney, said in a statement that her organization “strongly believes in the importance of providing nutrition information to consumers to empower them to make the best choices for their dietary needs” and that the association looks forward to “working with the agency as the implementation period begins and toward helping the industry adjust to the new rules.”

  • robstuart

    Thanks BIG BROTHER!!! This will definitely solve our weight problem in this country. I wish we could put our federal government on a monetary diet to dramatically reduce spending. I wonder how many calories are in 17 trillion dollars?