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Final FDA Regulations for Restaurant Nutrition Labeling Published

Published: 12/19/14
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Twitter Summary: FDA regulations will require chain restaurants, vending machines, + others to provide calorie counts of main menu items

The FDA recently announced its final restaurant nutrition labeling rules, required in 2010 within the Affordable Care Act. Under these rules, all chain restaurants, retail food establishments, vending machines, (and even amusement parks and movie theaters that have 20 or more locations), must display the calorie information of all their standard menu items. In sit down restaurants with menus, the information must be on the menu. In walk up and order restaurants, the information must be on the menu board  The calorie content of most alcoholic beverages will also be required. Upon consumer request, all establishments must also provide the total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars, and protein for these menu items. These establishments will also need to state that “2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.” This 2,000 benchmark is recognized as a rough guideline, although the CDC expresses that caloric balance has many factors and offers strategies for a healthy weight. These regulations, other than for those pertaining to vending machines, will go into effect across the nation December of 2015.

It’s worth noting that studies on the effectiveness of calorie labeling for food items at the point of purchase have shown different results. Some studies show access to this information can minimally lower peoples’ calorie intake. Other research shows little impact. Experts are hopeful that requiring restaurants to provide this information will encourage restaurants to reformulate some recipes and increase the number of healthier menu items. Whether these regulations have widespread impact on obesity rates and eventually prediabetes and type 2 diabetes rates remains to be seen. Regardless, it makes sense to see nutrition information become more transparent, and we hope that future steps make this information even more understandable for the American public (a recent Atlantic article highlights one neat suggestion towards that end). –CJ

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