Health Law Includes Calorie-Counting Requirement For Chain Restaurants, Vending Machines
Health care reform legislation includes a provision requiring chain restaurants and vending machines to include calorie counts. The Associated Press/Boston Globe report: "A requirement tucked into the nation's massive health care bill will make calorie counts impossible for thousands of restaurants to hide and difficult for consumers to ignore. More than 200,000 fast-food and other chain restaurants will have to include calorie counts on menus, menu boards, and even drive-throughs. The new law, which applies to any restaurant with 20 or more locations, directs the Food and Drug Administration to create a new national standard for menu labeling, superseding a growing number of state and city laws" (Jalonick, 3/24).
The New York Times reports that the measure "is intended to create a national policy modeled on a requirement that has already taken effect in New York City and was to go into effect in 2011 in places like California and Oregon. The new federal law requires restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets to disclose calorie counts on their food items and supply information on how many calories a healthy person should eat in a day. ... The measure was approved by Congress with little public discussion, in part because restaurant chains supported it. They had spent years fighting such requirements, but they were slowly losing the battle. Confronting a potential patchwork of conflicting requirements adopted by states and cities, they finally asked Congress to create a single national standard. ... Passage of the measure provoked aggravation among some free-enterprise groups, who saw it as another unnecessary government intrusion into private decision-making. Critics of the new law also contend that there is little evidence to show that menu labeling leads people to eat better" (Rosenbloom, 3/23).
The Wall Street Journal: "The National Center for Health Statistics reported in January that 34% of Americans age 20 and older were obese in 2007-08. The restaurant industry is required to come up with a labeling proposal in one year, but the bill leaves it to Food and Drug Administration officials to determine specific regulations, including the printing fonts and their sizes to be used in calorie displays. Ms. Wootan said it could take three to four years before diners see the new information in restaurants. One concern about the rules is accuracy" (Spencer and Wang, 3/24).