Nutrition and Calorie Labeling Coming to Restaurants and Vending Machines

The US FDA has finalized a pair of provisions from the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will require calorie information to be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants and vending machines, thereby allowing for consumers to make more informed choices about the food they eat when away from home.

It's a bit hard to believe, but the nutrition label you see on foods at the grocery store has only been around since 1990 and passage of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. That law didn't cover restaurants or vending machines, or any other ready-to-eat foods.

So some US localities began coming up with their own labeling requirements for these foods, but with cities establishing their own requirements, there was no country-wide standard. Until now, that is.

"Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and people today expect clear information about the products they consume," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "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 their families."

Restaurants

The FDA's menu labeling final rule will apply to restaurants and other similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering pretty much the same items on their menus.

They 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."

This not only will apply to chain restaurants; it will also apply to places like movie theaters and amusement parks. Additionally, it will include certain alcoholic beverages served in food establishments and listed on the menu (with some exceptions).

The final rule also requires these restaurants to provide written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein upon consumer request.

However, some things will be exempt from this requirement, including seasonal menu items, daily specials, and condiments found on the table.

These establishments now have one year to comply.

Vending Machines

The final FDA rule regarding vending machines will require operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for the food sold from those vending machines.

While there are some exceptions, these operators have two years to comply.

Source: FDA

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