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FDA Announces New Calorie Rules for Restaurants

FDA Announces New Calorie Rules for Restaurants

Nov. 25, 2014 — The FDA announced new rules Tuesday that require chain restaurants and vending machine operators to post calories for food and drinks on their menus.

The rules, which have been in the works since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, apply to restaurants that have more than 20 locations nationwide.

“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home, and people today expect clear information about the products they consume,” says FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD. “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.”

The rules will also include labeling requirements for restaurant-style food in grocery stores, big-box stores, coffee shops, ice cream stores, movie theaters, and amusement parks.

“Restaurant-style foods include foods generally eaten on the premises, or while walking away, or soon after arriving at another location,” Hamburg says. That means foods intended to be eaten quickly for a meal, instead of those taken home to be eaten over time, like a loaf of bread or a pound of deli meat.

Restaurant chains won’t be required to provide calorie counts for custom orders, daily specials, and seasonal items.

Many large chain restaurants, including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread, and McDonald’s, have already started posting calorie counts in anticipation of these rules. New York City passed a law requiring calories on menus in 2009.

Consumer advocacy groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest are applauding the regulations, but saying they are long overdue.

“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,” CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan says in a written statement. “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.”

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