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FDA Announces New “Calorie Count” Rules For Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Movie Theaters

Businesses that serve food must now display calorie counts to customers.

FDA Announces New “Calorie Count” Rules For Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Movie Theaters
[Photo: Flickr user Alpha]

The Food and Drug Administration has announced a nationwide standard for calorie count postings that must be included at chain restaurants with over 20 locations, movie theaters, and pizza parlors. Surprisingly, vending machines, amusement parks, and certain prepared foods at grocery stores are also covered under the new regulations.

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The calorie information must be listed on menus or posted on menu boards at these locations. Vending machines, which will be required to adopt the new rule in two years, will need to have calorie information on price placards or selection buttons. Interestingly, according to USA Today, the new rule will not apply to items that are considered seasonal items and available for less than 60 days. Independent restaurants and food trucks will not be forced to post calorie counts.

“This is one of the most important public health nutrition policies ever to be passed nationally,” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the New York Times.

Alcoholic beverages are also included, but only at restaurants where the drinks are listed on a menu or menu board, not at bars.

The new menu-labeling rules, which were part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, go into effect a year from now, but are expected to face some challenges from different parts of the food industry. The National Grocers Association said: “Grocery stores are not chain restaurants, which is why Congress did not initially include them in the law. We are disappointed that the FDA’s final rules will capture grocery stores, and impose such a large and costly regulatory burden on our members.” Other convenience and grocery store associations joined an association of vending machine owners to lobby for an exemption, but appear to have been unsuccessful.

However, the National Restaurant Association has long been calling for a federal standard after pilot programs were initiated in several states and cities, including New York City, in the last 10 years. The changes will not be felt at some nationwide chains, such as McDonald’s, which have had nationwide calorie counts posted in their restaurants already.

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