Calorie count rules cleared to add labeling to
menus, vending machines
Weight-watching, health-conscious seniors expected to
be big fans of help from FDA with choosing health foods
26, 2014 – Senior citizens - among the most frequent consumers of
restaurants and other eating-out places – will also be among the most
pleased with the Food and Drug Administration’s new 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. The goal is to provide consumers with more
nutritional information about the foods they eat outside of the home.
The rules, finalized yesterday, are required by the
2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and were finalized
“Calorie control is key to reversing the nation’s
obesity epidemic. Thanks to these new FDA labeling rules, Americans will
now have easier access to calorie counts for foods and drinks before
they place an order or push the buttons on a vending machine,” says
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown.
“While eating out, getting a to-go
meal, or grabbing a snack from a machine may save us time, it usually
doesn’t shrink our calorie intake. Research indicates we underestimate
the calories in the foods and drinks we choose and, as a result, consume
more than we need. The larger portions on our plate served by
restaurants also can lead to overconsumption. This not only causes
obesity, but puts us at risk for cardiovascular disease and an early
“But under these new FDA
regulations, consumers will now be able to compare options before making
a selection just as they would when reviewing ‘Nutrition Facts‘ labels
at the supermarket. According to a
recent survey conducted
in 17 states, a majority of Americans use available calorie information
on menus when deciding what to order at fast food and chain
FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., said,
“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from
home and people today expect clear information about the products they
“Making calorie information available on chain
restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public
health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and
The menu labeling final rule applies to restaurants
and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20
or more locations, doing business under the same name and offering for
sale substantially the same menu items.
Covered food establishments will be required to
clearly and conspicuously display calorie information for standard items
on menus and menu boards, next to the name or price of the item.
Seasonal menu items offered for sale as temporary menu items, daily
specials and condiments for general use typically available on a counter
or table are exempt from the labeling requirements.
Some states, localities and various large
restaurant chains are already doing their own forms of menu labeling.
The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, the law establishing
nutrition labeling on most foods, did not cover nutrition labeling for
restaurants and other ready-to-eat foods. In the years that followed,
states and cities created their own labeling requirements for such
foods. These federal standards will help avoid situations in which a
chain restaurant subject to the federal requirements has to meet
different requirements in different states.
The FDA considered more than 1,100 comments from
stakeholders and consumers in developing these rules. In response to
comments, the FDA narrowed the scope of foods covered by the rule to
more clearly focus on restaurant-type food. The agency made other
adjustments, too, such as ensuring the flexibility for multi-serving
dishes like pizza to be labeled by the slice rather than as a whole pie,
and provided establishments additional time to comply with the rule.
In addition, the menu labeling final rule now
includes certain alcoholic beverages served in covered food
establishments and listed on the menu, but still provides flexibility in
how establishments meet this provision. The majority of comments
supported including alcohol because of the impact on public health. The
menu labeling rule also includes food facilities in entertainment venue
chains such as movie theaters and amusement parks.
Restaurants and similar retail food establishments
will have one year to comply with the menu labeling requirements.
To help consumers understand the significance of
the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet, under the
rule, menus and menu boards will include the statement:
“2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition
advice, but calorie needs vary.”
The menu labeling final rule also requires covered
establishments to provide, upon consumer request and as noted on menus
and menu boards, written nutrition information about total calories,
total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol,
sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein.
The vending machine final rule requires operators
who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie
information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain
exceptions. Vending machine operators will have two years to comply with
The two final rules are available in the Federal
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the
safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs,
vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical
devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of
our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that
give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
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